Saudi Arabia has banned the popular children's video and card game Pokemon, saying it promoted gambling and un-Islamic teachings. In a directive obtained by Reuters yesterday, the commerce ministry said the ban on Pokemon goods was in line with a recent edict by the kingdom's top Islamic authority aimed at "protecting the Muslims' ideology as well as their morals and money".

It said Pokemon games and accessories already in the kingdom would be seized and that the ban applied to imports of all games and goods bearing Pokemon symbols. Pokemon, short for Pocket Monsters, began as a Nintendo Co Ltd video game in Japan more than five years ago and has since ballooned into a cultural phenomenon with spin-offs includig trading cards, video games, a feature film, books, comics, toys and clothing.

The edict said the game was a form of gambling prohibited by Islam as it involved collecting and trading Pokemon cards. It also said the game contradicted Islamic teachings by promoting Darwin's theory of evolution and featured the Star of David which is linked to Zionism, Israel and the Freemasons. The edict said the game also featured Christian crosses and symbols of Japanese Shintoism. Saudi Arabia, with a population of some 17 million, has one of the largest and most affluent consumer markets in the Arab world.