Marvel comics has pulled an issue of X-Men from circulation after it caused fan backlash due to the coded references that were perceived as anti-Semitic and anti-Christian.
Indonesian Muslim artist Ardian Syaf reportedly included a coded reference to the hardline Islamist movement directed against Basuki "Ahok" Purnama Tjahaja, the Christian governor of Jakarta.
In one of the panels of the newly released first issue of "X-Men Gold," Syaf referenced the number "212," which was often used to refer to the massive Muslim protest against Tjahaja on Dec. 2, 2016.
"The number is a peace act, when a governor did blasphemy to our holy book," Syaf reportedly wrote in response to online criticism.
"I don't hate Jews or Christians, I worked with them for 10 years. A lot of good friends too. For all that happened I apologise sincerely," he added.
Another panel of the comic showed X-Man Colossus wearing a shirt that reads "QS 5:51," which reportedly refers to a Quranic passage that reads: "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."
Following complaints from comic book readers, Marvel issued a statement, saying the artwork had been inserted "without knowledge behind its reported meanings."
The comic book giant said that the artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks.
Marvel also noted that disciplinary action is being taken against Syaf, who freelances for the publication.
David Gabriel, Marvel's Senior Vice President of sales and marketing, recently acknowledged that the publication has been struggling to sell comics due to its emphasis on diversity.
The publication has introduced new iterations of old characters as part of its efforts to include more diverse and more female characters. Some of the changes include a female Thor; Riri Williams, a black teenager who took over as Iron Man; Miles Morales, a biracial Spider-Man; and Kamala Khan, a Muslim teenager who is the current Ms. Marvel.
Speaking at the Marvel retailer summit, Gabriel said that retailers told him that fans are sticking to old favorites and that the comics focused on diversity and feminism were not selling. However, he clarified that Marvel will keep the new characters, and he suggested that the publication should keep introducing "unique" characters to its comics.