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Saudi Arabia bans ‘The 99’ animated series

Saudi committee says representation of God’s attributes cannot be tolerated

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 11:37 March 24, 2014
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • The 99, the Islamic superheroes.

Manama: Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta [religious edicts] has banned “The 99”, the world’s first animated series of superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

The committee said that the series, by Kuwaiti Nayef Al Mutawa screened on Saudi-owned television channel MBC3, could not be tolerated and should be banned.

The series had waded into controversy in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia where several voices have called for banning it for contravening Islamic values by representing the 99 Names and Attributes of God, Saudi news site Sabq reported on Monday.

In Kuwait, a local lawyer filed a lawsuit against the animated show addressed to children, claiming that its plot was a blatant representation of God’s attributes.

“The series is an infringement of the attributes of the Almighty Creator,” Dwaim Al Muwaizri said as he filed the case. “I call for the arrest of everyone connected with the series and for putting them on trial. I also call for banning the broadcast or rebroadcast of all episodes.”

In Saudi Arabia, Sa’ad Hassan Al Shammari, a Saudi national, approached the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta seeking a ban on the series.

“MBC3 is showing a children’s series about the attributes of God and characters embody each of them,” Al Shammari said. “The series claims that the union of the 99 characters who allegedly possess pure hearts and extraordinary powers will free the world and ease darkness. I hope that a ban on showing the series will be imposed,” he said.

In its reply to Al Shammari, the Committee said that the representation of God’s names and attributes could not be tolerated and should be condemned.

“People who want to teach others about God’s attributes should use legitimate ways,” the seven-member Committee said.

Other critics have accused the series of confusing children’s minds by featuring characters that had powers equal to those of God.

However, Al Mutawa, the CEO of Teshkeel Media Group has vehemently defended his work, saying that it had won universal praise, including from the Emir of Kuwait and President Barack Obama.

“Those who are attacking men are claiming that I am using the 99 Holy Names of God for my characters,” he said. “However, I never thought they would go as far as accusing me of blasphemy and atheism. I am surprised that this is happening in Kuwait, a country of law that respects the Constitution and freedoms,” he said.

Al Mutawa said that his work was under an Islamic company and funded by an Islamic bank.

“We have succeeded in presenting a positive image about the Islamic culture at international events. We had a role in dissipating the negative images of terrorism and killing that people had of Arabs. The series is being shown in 70 countries across the world,” he said.

Al Mutawa told Gulf News in 2009 that “people in our culture try to make thinking and creativity into wrong and harmful things... They are killing our culture”.

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