Monday, February 13, 2006

Mohammed Cartoons: the children's book

The whole cartoon controversy that I wrote about a few days ago was sparked after Danish author Kaare Bluitgen had difficulty finding an illustrator for his book, "The Koran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad". This book, which has reportedly been "flying off the shelves", was written "to explain Islam to Danish children."

Bluitgen's book was published a month or so ago, and here is a link to the illustrations of Mohammed out of it. The illustrations include a couple of battle pictures, including one showing a warrior being impaled by a spear through the neck, and another picture showing Jews being beheaded with swords and impaled with spears.

Isn't this is supposed to be a children's book? Do little children really enjoy books showing beheadings and impalings in gruesome detail? Or, was this book written more for adult consumption and to kick up a fuss?

Update: February 14

Some people in the comments section don't seem to understand my point here. My point is not what is historically correct or not. My point is what is appropriate to be included in a children's book.

If I were writing a children's book about Christianity, there are a few paragraphs I would definitely not select to illustrate in graphic detail:

Joshua 6(20)
20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets sounded. When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. (E) The people advanced into the city, each man straight ahead, and they captured the city. 21 They completely destroyed (F) everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey.

Matthew 2(16-18)
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years [g] old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. (L)
17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, [h] and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they were no more. (M) (N)

Numbers 25(6)
6 An Israelite man came bringing a Midianite woman to his relatives in the sight of Moses and the whole Israelite community while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw [this], he got up from the assembly, took a spear in his hand, 8 followed the Israelite man into the tent, [c] and drove it through both the Israelite man and the woman—through her belly.

Judges 19 (23-25)
20 "Peace to you," said the old man. "I'll take care of everything you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he brought him to his house and fed the donkeys. Then they washed their feet and ate and drank. (I) 22 While they were enjoying themselves, all of a sudden, perverted men of the city (J) surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said to the old man who was the owner of the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him!"
23 The owner of the house went out and said to them, "No, don't do [this] evil, my brothers. After all, this man has come into my house. Don't do this horrible thing. (K) 24 Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter (L) and the man's concubine now. Use them (M) and do whatever you want [h] to them. But don't do this horrible thing to this man."
25 But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped [i] her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go. 26 Early that morning, the woman made her way back, and as it was getting light, she collapsed at the doorway of the man's house where her master was.

Are these valid Bible quotes? You bet! Would these be ones I'd want to illustrate in graphic detail for a children's book about the Bible? Definitely not!

Just because something is historically correct doesn't make it suitable for children. After all, the purpose is to provide information to children about a topic, not make them have nightmares for a week about it. Some of the illustrations in this "children's book" seemed far too graphic to me for a normal children's book.