And a Merry Ramadan To You. Too!
CAPSTONE PRESS, A publisher of nonfiction books for children based in Mankato, fits well in the Land of 10,000 Good Intentions. Their titles urge young readers to learn about horses, women explorers, the wildlife of North America, and, more recently, Muslim holidays. But the full-page color illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad included in Capstone's fall '96 release Muslim Holidays by author Faith Winchester didn't sit well with actual Muslim readers. Not surprising, really, since the Islamic faith considers created images of the Prophet Muhammad (or of any other religious figures) to be offensive.
After pressure from various Muslim groups, Capstone recently agreed to recall Muslim Holidays. Complaints about the book began last July when the book fell into the hands of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C. Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's National Communications Director, laughs when discussing the recalled title. "There were so many inaccuracies and fables being put forth as Islamic belief in this book, it was just incomprehensible. The entire book was full of nonsense and utter foolishness; they couldn't even spell the names of the holidays right." Hooper says he wasn't too worried about getting the book recalled. "When there are that many egregious errors in a book, the publisher doesn't have much of a choice in the matter. They were cold to us at first, but when they realized that we were serious, they just didn't have any other option."
Among other colorful inaccuracies in Muslim Holidays, according to CAIR, are folk tales set forth as Muslim belief (e.g., that "Some Muslims believe there is a tree in Paradise," and that "[t]hey tell a story about how he [Muhammad] saved the world from being destroyed," etc.). Which is not to get into Muslim Holidays' incorrect spelling and faulty dates for, well, the Muslim holidays.
Lois Wallantine, Senior Managing Editor of Project Development for Capstone Press, was curt during a recent phone interview on the subject. "This was a really small situation where there was some information in the book that was inaccurate. Some added folk tales, if you will, some misspellings. There were some illustrations that weren't appropriate. And we did stop publishing the book shortly after we were contacted by CAIR."
A search for the elusive author herself came up empty. "We don't bother trying to contact the authors in cases like this," says Mr. Hooper. "The author has too much of an emotional attachment to the project. She probably is one of those work-at-home/home-office types that came up with this stuff on her own."
When Wallantine was asked how to contact Ms. Winchester, she replied, "I think that [it] would be a mistake to try to talk to Ms. Winchester. Some of the misinformation was placed in-house, and as a publisher, we take full responsibility for all errors."
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