Skin Deep criticised for “offensive” front cover

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The new issue of Oxford’s Skin Deep magazine has sparked controversy among some in Oxford’s Islamic community. The cover image is a photograph of The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem with passages of Quran inscribed.

Skin Deep is a magazine and group devoted to giving a platform for issues surrounding race. Started in 2014, the magazine released its third issue near the end of Hilary term.

The issue was first raised by Muktar Kamiri, a student at Wadham College, who was “seriously offended by [the cover].” Kamiri commented: “Muslims are very careful about how the Quran and its verses are handled […] copies of the magazine are put in JCRs, where bops take place and alcohol could touch the cover.” Kamiri worked to have transparent plastic covers placed over the magazines in the Wadham JCR, where a bop was taking place, but expressed concern over the range of places the magazine had been distributed.

Skin Deep posted a statement on their Facebook page in response to the concerns raised: “We fully stand by our decision to use a photograph of the Dome of the Rock as our cover for our third issue […] Our inclusion of Islamic architecture was an attempt to appreciate an often unrepresented aspect of Islamic history and Islamic cultural production: art and architecture.”

Other Muslims commenting on the group did not appear as concerned with the inscriptions printed on the Skin Deep cover. While Islam generally condemns desecration of the Quran, opinions on the magazine’s cover varied.

Tawfiq Hamid, a student at University College and former president of the Oxford Islamic Society, told The Oxford Student: “My own personal stance differs greatly from Mukhtar’s and it is an issue which splits opinion.”

A commenter in the Facebook group wrote: “I think we as Muslims have bigger things to worry about than people who actually support our rights inadvertently “offending” us.”

Qurans are intended to be handled carefully, and their desecration is often regarded a serious affront to Islam. In 2012, a falsified image of a Buddhist desecrating a Quran prompted the destruction of dozens of temples and houses in Bangladesh.

While the magazine has encouraged all to “take the necessary precautions to see that the magazine is handled with a modicum of respect,” those who first raised the issue are still worried.

Kamiri added: “The fact that bothered me most was that some people didn’t respect my opinion and saying not every muslim is offended by this so its fine.”

COVER PHOTO//Skin Deep Issue 2