In Indonesia, 212 is the number used to denote a specific mass protest from December 2nd of last year. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims marched against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, over allegations of blasphemy regarding his use of the Quran in campaigning against opponents. The march was organized, in part, with the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa. It was pretty hardline conservative and the protest demanded the government prosecute and jail Ahok based on the council's fatwa, declaring him to be a blasphemer. This year, a 212 2.0 march with similar aims was held on the 21st of February.
Ahok caused a great deal of controversy in Indonesia after he referred to a verse in the Quran while campaigning, specifically the verse Al Maidah 5:51, and said that people should not believe Islamic leaders who claim it forbids Muslims from being led by non-Muslims. He has since repeatedly apologized for his statements, but it hasn't stemmed the protest.
"O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are, in fact, allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is one of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people."
A more common Indonesian translation of the verse, however, states that "Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader." So, what has this to do with comic books?
The number 212 and 51 appears in a scene of X-Men Gold #1 by Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf, published last Wednesday, with comic book character Kitty Pryde addressing the crowd. Let's zoom in.
That would be the Jewish character Kitty Pryde, in a scene talking about being the new leader of the X-Men.
The X-Men were created in the sixties by Jewish creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, in a comic written by Marc Guggenheim, raised Jewish.
Later in the comic, on Colossus' shirt, we see the letters and numbers QS 5:51, referring to that verse. QS stands for Quran Surah, with Surah meaning chapter.
Colossus is playing alongside Christian character Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler. Ardian posted the original art image to the first on Facebook, to his Indonesian followers.
The messages were soon spotted.
It appears that Ardian added the messages to the comic after coming home from being on the march himself. Some of his readers objected to their use in such a comic book.
In previous works, Ardian Syaf has hidden political figures in the background — an issue of Batgirl featured mention of President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, who was the previous governor of Jakarta (or DKI, as it is also known).
When that was posted, Ardian mentioned that no one had made a fuss.
But too late — the message has escaped onto social media.
And an open letter has been published to Marvel asking them to address the situation.
It wouldn't be the first time comic book creators have snuck messages into comic books. Ethan Van Sciver a whole issue of New X-Men hiding the word "sex" in the background. Al Milgrom lettered a mocking message into a comic when Marvel EIC Bob Harras was fired. And there was the time a production artist drew a penis on Bucky in classic Captain America archive reprints. But conservative Islamic hate speech references? This may be a new challenge for Marvel to deal with in such difficult times for the publisher.
Neither Ardian Syaf nor Marvel representatives replied to inquiries made earlier today.