By Courtney Trenwith
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 sabq.com.
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.
Good decision, probably the best the Grand Mufti has made in his lifetime. The show should be banned worldwide and not only in Muslim-Arab countries. Accusations of being anti-progress or anti-cultural are not a first. The characters depicted in the show clearly violate Islamic virtues and principles, completely the opposite to what the synopsis of the show claims. It does not in any way help in portraying a good image of Islam, on the contrary it delivers poison to the young minds in a masked "cartoon" dish served in every home.
Here's a thought. If the comic book is as terrible and appalling as you suggest, why don't parents just take responsibility and not buy it for their children? You don't need a ban, you just need people to take responsibility for themselves.
Good call ....
One world suddenly appeared as an evidence to me after I read the comment of Khalil : "FRIGHTENING"
The world you use and the ton of your speech, I should say the ton of your "extremist preach" is just scary, you prone intolerance and you give the impression to the readers to be someone capable to impose, even violently if needed, your point of view.
Islam and Lebanon don't need people like you to propagate this kind of resentful message, your speech will give to those who want to picture Islam as a "predator" for their culture or freedom of speech or religion choice, the right for people to choose what they want to see or not, you give to these blindfolded anti-Islam group the opportunity to say : "you see, it's written, impose a ban EVEN in non-Muslim countries".
Your "preach" is counterproductive for the majority of peaceful Muslim worldwide and give a very bad image of Lebanon, fortunately you are and hopefully will stay a minority in Islam.
I respectfully have two comments in response to brother Khalil:
1. Did you actually see the cartoon, such that your statement "...the show violates Islamic virtues and principles..." can be taken as somehow qualified?
2. Let's consider (for example) the virtue of kindness. When we see someone being kind we say "He/she is a kind person". Is that not personifying the virtue of kindness? Virtues attributed to someone cannot be personified. They are just that...a virtue...and teaching children about virtues in a manner that is appealing to them is nothing wrong.
Dear Khalil, before you worry about the impact a cartoon would have on the image of Islam, ask yourself what impact Muslim killing Muslim has on the image of our great religion?
Not only do we try and impose our religion on non-muslims we are now try to impose our oversion of Islam on Muslims!
A saying comes to my mind..."God let me die with my eyes closed and my heart open!". I wish more Muslims remember this.
Khalil's comments are the most logical and sane comments. I don't understand why it seems so 'frightening' to you and telcoguy. We have our opinions about what should be shown in the name of religion and we support the Saudi decision completely. So why are you so concerned? Aren't there millinos of tv shows you can enjoy except those which are banned? You don't need cartoons to see Allah's 'Qudrat'. Read the meanings of the holy scripture 'Quran' and its explanations by His Messenger Mohammad PBUH if you wish to know Islam. If Saudi fatwa said Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa as a non-Muslim, he better heed and correct himself.
1- I have indeed seen a couple of episodes of the show over the internet and not on T.V (same). When I say the show violates Islamic virtues I mean it personifies divine characteristics, gives shape and form to the character of Allah, by naming these characters after the 99 names. Which brings me to the next point you discussed,
2- Yes, we are as muslims, and human beings, 100% supposed to have these characters in us to live peaceful and productive lives, we are all born with some or many of the characteristics that the names of Allah suggest, but to some extent. Nevertheless, many of the names suggest abilities we humans will never and shouldn't claim to have, for example: Mumita (The destroyer) which comes from Al Mumit, referring to Allah's ability to take life as he has given it (Al Mohiee). Many other characteristics will pose the same contradiction.
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.
@vincent : Violent ? Counterproductive ? Predator ?
Wow !! Well, I'll have to say, it all depends on what your image of Lebanon is. If you see it as a tourist attraction with pubs, drugs and prostitution; as an outlet for some neighboring countries where these things are under siege then yes I am portraying a bad image.
To everyone involved in this discussion please understand that the first comment I made, was also partly a reaction to the fact that the creator of this cartoon presumes that he is a Muslim, and after being faced with the accusations I mentioned, all he had in defense was that the cartoon was a big hit and Obama himself praised him for it. Since when was Obama aware of the dos and donts of Islam ?
Where are the boundaries of this "freedom of speech" you speak of ?
@Mumeen...I don't know whether you have read the full message of Khalil or just wanted to read the parts you like, but I will quote it again here so you will understand why it is FRIGHTENING to Telco, Vincent and even extremism in Omar's opinion. It goes like this " The show should be banned worldwide and not only in Muslim-Arab countries". Exactly how this is logical and sane? If you still did not get it, then poor you and the likes of you. You are exactly the kind of very minority Muslims who give the religion a "bad name" and caused the negative view and opinion of other people around the world and ultimately leading to suffering of the majority of good Muslims.