The author of the Awkward Moments Children's Bible, which illustrates controversial or strange passages in the Bible, has announced that he's canceling a follow-up project that would have illustrated parts of the Quran because of fears for his safety and the safety of the illustrators.
"After a great deal of consideration and wise counsel, I've decided to cancel the controversial Kid's Koran project we've been working on and hinting about over the past year that was set to release this fall. Why? Because of a certain group of fringe maniacal 'radical' bullies who equate the transfer of lead and pigments into shapes on paper as blasphemy — punishable by death," the author, going by the pseudonym Horus Gilgamesh, explains on his website.
"I'm quite unhappy to be forced into making this decision and would like to state emphatically that this project is not being cancelled out of any sort of respect for any irrational ancient religion that threatens to silence critical thinking and/or satirical challenges with death.
"No, it is being cancelled because of very rational fears brought on by the reality that such threats (and actions) are still carried out today, in 2015, in the light of day, right under the noses of a modern society."
Back in November 2013, Gilgamesh told The Christian Post in an interview that one of the goals behind his provocative juxtapositions of the Bible was to make Christians think critically about Scripture.
"Frankly, what it comes down to is we want people to think about the Bible for themselves, not just going to church once a month or once a week and nodding their head and cherry-picking and taking things out of context," Gilgamesh told CP.
"[The illustrator and I] take things out of context from the illustrations' perspective, but have the verses right there, and we try to toe a very narrow line between being respectful but also getting people out of their comfort zone to go look up the Bible verse themselves and look up the context themselves," he added.
Gilgamesh told CP that he's a former born-again Christian who spent 10 years in "full-time ministry programs doing biblical literacy and evangelism … [pertaining to] AIDS and drug issues," before leaving the faith.
On his website, Gilgamesh says that he has received death threats from Christians for his past project, but he did not take them too seriously.
Given the terror attacks in Paris and other European countries, as well as the shooting in May at a cartoon contest featuring images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas, he said that he takes "threats from militant/fundamentalist/radical Islamic fundamentalists much more seriously."
"For someone who spends a large amount of time illustrating and speaking about the challenges posed by religion, I don't thinks this makes me a bigot, but a realist, as more and more cartoonists are murdered, threatened, and silenced for good," he added.
"While we might seem paranoid or jumping to conclusions to the average American office worker, the dangers and risks feel quite real, personal, and infuriating to each of us as illustrators, bloggers, and 'activists' who are critical of organized religions. At the end of the day, the decision was not mine alone, but a collective choice by all of our families and (few) friends who were aware of the project."
Gilgamesh later told The Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta that the decision to cancel the project was not made because of a specific threat, but because of concerns stemming from the growing attacks against cartoonists who have drawn images of Muhammad in the past year.