Saudi clerics urge faithful to shun 'Islamic' superhero series

Published March 25, 2014
One of the characters from The 99 - Photo Publicity
One of the characters from The 99 - Photo Publicity
Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh. — File photo
Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh. — File photo

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s top clerics have declared an Islam-inspired cartoon series, which earned praise from US President Barack Obama, a "work of the devil" that Muslims should not watch.

The television version of superhero comic book "The 99" is being aired by Saudi-owned satellite channel MBC3, based in Dubai in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

But in a religious decree carried by Saudi websites on Monday, the clerics ruled the series blasphemous because the superheroes of its title are based on the 99 attributes ascribed to Allah in the Holy Quran.

"The 99 is a work of the devil that should be condemned and forbidden in respect to Allah’s names and attributes," the clerics, led by the kingdom’s mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, said.

The original comic strip version, first released in 2006, had already ran into opposition from Muslim hardliners not only in Saudi Arabia but also in neighbouring Kuwait, where it was created and produced by media executive Nayef al-Matawa.

The comics — produced in English as well as Arabic — won praise, however, not only from Obama but also from Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, for their message of moderation and cultural dialogue.

They have been sold around the world and have also spawned a merchandise range and a theme park in Kuwait as well as the Arabic-language television series.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia applies a strict version of Islam.

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