Saudi Arabia bans popular Islamic cartoon The 99

Kingdom issues ban on cartoon, based on the 99 attributes of Allah, which has had success in more than 20 countries

Saudi Arabia has officially banned the internationally popular cartoon featuring Islamic heroes, The 99.

The comic book series based on characters that each personify one of the 99 qualities that the Koran attributes to God has for years been successful, particularly in the Gulf, and has received the backing of Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasar Al Sabah and US President Barack Obama.

Written by Kuwaiti Dr Naif Al Mutawa, The 99’s characters include a woman wearing a burka named Batina the Hidden and a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type man named Jabbar the Powerful.

A television series based on the comic books has aired in more than 20 countries for more than a year and it was supposed to launch in Saudi Arabia this year on MBC3.

However, the government council General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Fatwa has banned the show, saying the 99 attributes of Allah should not be personified.

In its written judgement, the council went so far as to accuse Al Mutawa of not being a Muslim.

Al Mutawa, the founder of Teshkeel Media Group, criticised the decision and said it was “a shock” amid international support, including in Islamic countries.

“I didn’t expect that attack to accuse me of kufr [being an infidel] and atheism,” he was quoted as saying by Arabic website

The series was named as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the world by Forbes magazine in 2009.

Al Mutawa has worked with writers such as Fabian Nicieza, who wrote for the Power Rangers and X-Men comics, and a group of managers including an ex–Rolling Stone publisher, which Al Mutawa has previously said helped make the show also successful in non-Islamic markets.

Saudi Arabia has banned numerous artistic works and television shows that relate to Islam, which does not allow any personification of the Prophet (PBUH).

The decision not to allow The 99, follows US broadcaster ABC Family’s decision to axe a new show Alice in Arabia, which had been due to air this year.

The drama was based on a teenage girl who had grown up in the US and was then taken to Saudi Arabia by her family after her parents died. In each episode, she would have dealt with various issues regarding living in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

Critics said it would ridicule Islam and inflame already negative Western perceptions of the religion.

The US writer had claimed the plot summary was incorrectly portrayed but the broadcaster decided earlier this month not to risk airing the show, which was yet to be filmed.

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Posted by: Karam H AL-Hashmi

Adults and well matured muslims already realize that our enimies non-stoppingly make carton films for our kids which are teaching them different traditions which contradict with their own religion in a very intelligent way and no one can deny the existence of such carton films some are already played in the media and others are available in the local markets!
Our enimies know very well how to mix the honey with the poison and this is how they succeed to penetrate our kids and young generation's minds by teaching them ati-islamic culture,and we can observe such teachings on some of their attitudes at home,schools and in the streets?!

Posted by: Doug

It's not a pushing aside of the laws. It is a pointing out that the laws against anti-Semitism are the same laws used to protect ALL faiths, whereas we all know this region wrongly believes that Jews are given a special preference. For the record, I do not agree with laws prohibiting denial of the Holocaust.
Yes, you don't get adult content on kids channels. That's because they're kids channels. And of course you can say that parents should control what influences their kids. That's effectively the description of 'parenting'.
As for a cartoon being against local religion and culture, it was developed by a GCC national! Clearly there is debate over what constitutes 'acceptability' in this region, and THAT is the crux of of the argument here, and that is what the other posters here aren't prepared to accept.

Posted by: Syed Haq

Brother Khalil, Kudos to you, May your tribe increase. AB better mends its way and stick to publishing news about Business and stay away from religion.
As most of the comments are biased and prejudices. They have no in-depth knowledge about the subject under purview.
But then divine justice and truth will prevail no matter what.

Posted by: Suresh

@Doug - still you push aside the question of anti-semitism laws.

Controls are in every aspect of life...we dont get adult content on kids channels, one cannot say the parents should control what they want the kids to see. even right regulations are in place to control what content are published on kids channel in the first place.

So if a cartoon is against local culture/religion it is fine to be banned.
Anyways those who want to see can always have it accessed over internet.

Posted by: Doug

@Khalil: ah, I was wondering when someone was going to bring up anti-Semitism. This might come as a huge surprise to you but in many of the countries where anti-Semitism is banned, the very same laws also protect Muslims, Christians, Hindus, ethnic minorities etc. under the broad definition of anti-racism and anti-discrimination laws.

Here's a question. The 99 is available in many Muslim nations and was written and drawn by a Muslim. Evidently there is a degree of differing interpretation as to what is correct. Therefore, those who feel it is not anti-Islamic also have the same right as you to defend themselves and their beliefs. So the logical, fairest compromise is that those who wish to watch or read the 99 should be able to, and those who don't can simply not watch or read it.

We're not discussing freedom of speech at all - we're discussing the freedom to pursue life in the way you want.

Posted by: Khalil

Dear @Doug : It's not a matter of permitting people to make their own mistakes and live with the consequences, we live in a world where antisemitism is considered a crime and punishable by law in some countries, but freedom of speech is always a pretext when it comes to criticizing, manipulating, ridiculing and disfiguring Islamic figures and principles.
This is no longer a matter of take it or leave it. At some point, everyone has a right to defend themselves and their beliefs.

Posted by: Doug

Well, actually it is a business story as it relates to a product where money has changed hands for rights etc.

You are right that comments under this story are biased and prejudiced. By definition, that's what opinions are. Given that divine truth and justice will prevail no matter what, it would therefore seem safe to assume that it doesn't really matter what people comment under a story, so why not give people the opportunity anyway, as it ultimately does no harm?

One might also say, given what will prevail no matter what, there is no need for a ban. A ban would imply the object in question posed an actual threat, as opposed to an opportunity for a parent to think for themselves and bring up their children correctly.

I suspect though your view is that people shouldn't be permitted to make their own mistakes and live with the consequences.

Posted by: Khalil

Thank you.

I have done enough research about the show and the team that started it and have moved from there to start my debate. What others are missing, they can only see by looking further into the plot of the show and where it ends.

Posted by: Doug

It's simply down to a difference of opinion on personal responsibility.

I have no opinion either way on the 99 and its relation to Islam - I have little to no familiarity with the 99 at all and I would appreciate that the majority of people here have a much better informed understanding of Islam than I do.

The issue, as I said, is personal responsibility. I believe it is the responsibility of a parent to decide what they wish to expose their child to, not the government. I believe that people should be entitled to make their own choices about their lives and that it is not the duty of a government to make its people good Muslims. I believe it's up to the individual to decide how to live their life and if they make the wrong choices, then they'll just have to pay for it eternally.

Posted by: Khalil

@Omar :
2- I never discussed the issue of Muslim killing Muslim and it's effect on our image as Muslims to the rest of the world. Clearly I'm completely against such actions and completely understand what negative consequences they have on our image. I never intended to impose my religion on anyone, but you have to understand that I am entitled to protect my religion from any assault be it concrete or abstract. The only way possible for me at this point is by writing the comment I did.

@Doug : You are right to some extent, it's the same case with pornography, can we ever ban that ? No. Parents should definitely take responsibility and filter out what their parents watch at home. Except that this show is targeting kids, ofcourse there's a reason for that, and confusing them by suggesting that divine characteristics are not limited to the Almighty, suggesting that even humans can give life, take it, create, and have ultimate power; which completely confuses their concept of religion.

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