Saudi Arabia is far from nerding out about comic books.
The Daily Beast reported that Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh issued a fatwa — a legal opinion or advice from the Islamic faith — against the comic books and TV show of “The 99,” a Muslim superhero comic that shows characters who identify with 99 names of Allah.
Up to this point, the comic book, which was created to present a positive portrayal of Muslims in a post-9/11 world, has received praise from a variety of sources, The Daily Beat reported.
But the fatwa, issued by the grand mufti and his council, called the comics “evil work that needs to be shunned,” The Daily Beast reported.
Naif al-Mutawa, a Kutwaiti psychologist and creator of the comic, wasn’t happy with the ban because it seemed to contradict the message the comics are trying to spread.
“We put Saudi super heroes on global television,” al-Mutawa said to The Daily Beast. “We are saying, ‘We are the good guys, not the bad guys,’ and these people are saying, ‘No, you are wrong, we actually are the bad guys. Stop spreading lies, Naif!’”
Muslim characters seem to be on the rise in comic books. Just recently, Marvel released the new Ms. Marvel comic in which the main character, Kamala Khan, is Muslim. She’s been called a hero everyone can follow, and she’s sparked substantial interest on Twitter.
Religion has played a role in comic books for a while, according to the story “Superheroes and faith: How religion plays a role in the comic book industry” by Deseret News National. Many of the world’s most famous comic book characters — including Superman, Batman and Captain America — have religious connections. Comics are even an extension of religious learning, said Kutter Callaway, an affiliate professor of theological and cultural studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, to Deseret News National.
“It’s really something that appeases people’s imagination and hearts more so than a sermon ever could,” he said.
The same could be said for “The 99,” which is looking to shed a positive light on the Muslim religion and spread good messages of Islamism. But the fatwa came in the same week that Saudi Arabia was put under fire for its textbooks containing hate speech and negative messages about religious groups, according to The Daily Beast in an article titled “U.S. Keeps Saudi Arabia’s Worst Secret.”
“I think it’s credible that there are less instances in Saudi elementary school textbooks of material that is hateful or encouraging violence,” said David Andrew Weinberg, author of a report that studied Saudi textbooks. “But the value of that is minimal when all indications suggest Saudi students who go through the official Saudi education system are still getting indoctrinated with horrific material at the high school level.”