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Syrians burn Turkish textbooks over Prophet illustrations

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A textbook produced by Turkey’s education ministry and distributed Thursday in northern Syria has drawn local ire over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, prompting some residents to burn the books, Agence France-Presse reported.

Although visual depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are not explicitly banned in the Koran, many Muslims frown upon them as a form of blasphemy.

The religious textbook, designed by Turkey’s education ministry specifically for children living in parts of Syria under Ankara’s control, contained illustrations that residents of the area deemed blasphemous.

In one image, a bearded man, dressed in a pink sweater and burgundy pants, kneels down to pick up his daughter as she hops off a school bus.

“The prophet receives his daughter Fatima,” read the title of the page, although it is not completely clear the headline refers specifically to the image.

In the town of Jarablus, near Turkey’s border, residents torched all the copies they could get their hands on, according to social media footage and residents AFP was able to speak to.

“We were surprised in the morning to find these textbooks… which contain visual depictions of the prophet,” said Jarablus resident Mustafa Abdulhaq.

“We burned all the books,” he said.

In other areas controlled by Ankara, including the city of Al-Bab, residents warned they would stage protests on Friday if the textbooks were not recalled.

Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016.

In these regions, the Turkish lira has become the main currency and Ankara has even helped set up hospitals, post offices and schools that teach the Turkish language.

Jumaa Kazkaz, the top education official in Al-Bab, said school books were provided by nearby Turkish provinces, including Gaziantep, Kilis and Şanlıurfa.

Commenting on the outcry caused by the textbooks, he said “there are talks with the Directorate of Education in Gaziantep… in order to amend the curriculum”.

“We are currently waiting for a decision,” he added.

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