The viral mobile game Pokemon Go has hit a roadblock as Saudi Arabia’s top clerics have renewed a decade-and-a-half old fatwa against the video game franchise. Saudi Arabia’s clerics believe the game to be un-Islamic.
Pokemon Go is un-Islamic?
Initially, the decree was issued against the then-popular Pokemon Card Game in 2001. The game, according to clerics, featured forbidden imagery and promoted gambling. In Islam, gambling is forbidden and is considered haram. The original declaration had issues with the symbols in the series, for instance, a six-pointed star that is related to Israel and “many forms of the [Christian] cross.”
Quoting a member of the kingdom’s Council of Scholars, Sheikh Saleh al-Fozan, Saudi site Arab News says Pokemon Go possesses the same un-Islamic qualities as the earlier version, and thus, fatwa (No. 21,758) is being renewed. A major issue that the council had with the gaming franchise is that Pokemon “evolve.”
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“The theory of evolution is a main element. One of the most important things that makes man condemn this game is adopting the theory of evolution developed by Darwin,” the edict states. “This theory states that all species of organisms evolve and that the origin of man was an ape. Astonishingly, the children frequently use the word ‘evolution’ inside and outside the game. You can hear them saying that this creature contained in the card has evolved to another form.”
Facing scrutiny in other parts too
Released on July 6, Pokemon Go is growing popular in the Middle East even though it has not been officially launched there. The game has amassed so much popularity that Nintendo, which has a stake in The Pokemon Company, has seen its share price double. In the game, players have to travel to real-world locations to fight cartoon monsters.
Pokemon Go is also facing scrutiny in other parts of the Muslim world. In Egypt, there are talks of banning the game over security concerns, according to Al-Jazeera. According to Gulf News, Egypt’s top Islamic institution, Al Azhar, described the Pokemon Go craze as “harmful mania” last week. The game is also facing opposition in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, reports The Telegraph.
Pokemon Go is not the only game to encounter the ire of clerics. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh pronounced a fatwa in January against chess, referring to the game as a waste of time and money that fosters a feeling of hatred among the players, reported The New York Times. The sheikh called the game a “work of Satan.”
Fatwas, which are legal edicts, depend majorly on who is saying them and their acceptance by other scholars. It means that any scholar can voice a fatwa, but it may or not be accepted beyond that particular scholar’s territory.