9/11 Coloring Book Draws Criticism for Portrayal of Muslims

Are the attacks and Bin Laden's death really coloring book material?

ByABC News
August 30, 2011, 2:26 PM

— -- As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, one publisher has memorialized it in a manner that's generating a lot of controversy. Instead of appealing to kids with doe-eyed puppies and flowers, his new coloring book, "We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids' Book of Freedom," offers children drawings of the Twin Towers burning and Osama Bin Laden in the moments before he was shot hiding behind one of his wives.

And while the publisher says the doodles represent patriotism, some Muslims are arguing that the book promotes the same stereotypes that have haunted Muslim Americans for years.

Wayne Bell, publisher of Really Big Coloring Books, Inc., in St. Louis, says that the book is a memorial tribute. "It is an informational piece to help educate children on events on 9/11," Bell said. He added that it is "a simplistic, honest tool."

As he describes it, the book is a 12-hour narrative of the events that happened on the day that forever changed America. Kids can color in the twin towers, Navy SEALS, former president George W. Bush, just to name a few. The graphic novel depicts the attacks by showing mourning Americans and alluding to the patriotism that brought the country together. In his interview with ABC News, Bell mentioned the songs included in the book, such as "God Bless America" and how the book quotes President Bush saying, "These acts shutter steel but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."

Such words are traditionally associated with hope, resolve, and bravery. But these aren't the words that Dawud Walid is focused on.

"It's disgusting," Walid said.

He's the Michigan representative for the Council on American Islamic Relations and says that instead of finding hope in the coloring book, he found hate.

Referencing part of the book that refers to the jihadists as "freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists," Walid notes that nearly all of the mentions of Muslims in the book are accompanied by the words "terrorist" or "extremist." He says this book is more than just coloring in the lines.

"Little kids who pick up this book can have their perceptions colored by those images … it instills bias in young minds," said Walid. He says that some of the narrative and photos aren't even correct, noting that Bin Laden wasn't hiding behind a wife when he was shot.

Bell stood by the book as an "honest depiction".

"The truth is the truth," Bell said, adding, "It's unfortunate that they were all Muslim and that's the part people want to erase … I don't know what else you can call them."

Walid insists that by solely portraying Muslims as extremists, Bell is doing a disservice to all the Muslim Americans affected by 9/11. The book shows pictures of a woman mourning, a cross chain dangling from her neck.

"Muslim mothers lost sons too," Walid said.

Aside from nomenclature, Walid said that he's not an advocate of showing children violent images and adds that he's not a huge fan of G.I Joe.

But Bell says his PG rating on the book should be enough. He encourages parents to read the book with their children and says that the burden falls on the parents to monitor what their children should read. When asked why make a PG book at all, Bell responded, "Why not? Why make PG movies? Why make video games?"

According to Bell, the coloring book is doing quite well and was in response to several requests he got for a book of this nature. He didn't have an exact count for the company's latest venture but emphatically noted that they've been printing books as fast as they can.

His publishing company has published coloring books on a gamut of topics from dinosaurs and zoo animals to African-American leaders, President Obama, superheroes of the Bible and even the Tea Party.

Bell told ABC News that he would be willing to print a book reflecting positive images in the Muslim-American community. If requested, Bell said, "I'd print it tomorrow."

"Well, I'm asking him to do it right now," said Walid.