Of course Falwell and the Moral Majority never had the power to exert international control over a symbol---like some people seem to have. And those laughably paranoid Muslim conspiracy theorists, carrying on about a meaningless materialistic fad like Pokemon---just wait six months and we'll really give them something to mull over!
Frankly, any religion that made it into the modern world in the top three, which still prohibits institutionalized usury, has the right to lay down some ground rules about gambling too. Christian America on the other hand, (which has the same divine lending-at-profit prohibition on the books) has Las Vegas and the Federal Reserve to show for itself. And whom did God favor with all that oil? Hmmm?
Maybe if Messrs. Dickey and Ismail took a broader view and a less snarky tone there'd be less talk about the media being a tool of the Zionist entity.
March 21, 2001, Newsweek International, The Pokemon Fatwa,
Pikachu, we don't choose you: some Arab parents believe Pokemon cards could cause their children to become infertile
Why Islamic religious leaders think the Japanese pocket monsters are really Zionist agents
By Christopher Dickey and Gameela Ismail
NEWSWEEK IN ARABIC
Pokemon has swept around the globe in the last five years, obsessing children, puzzling—and sometimes impoverishing—parents. Now Islamic religious leaders are fighting back.
IN WHAT MAY be the most bizarre pronouncement since his predecessor declared the world flat, Saudi Arabia's mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, has issued a formal fatwa on Nintendo's monsterettes, banning the wildly popular game from the kingdom.
His reason: Pokemon includes card trading, which the mufti denounces as gambling. Worse still, Pokemon's constantly morphing creatures evoke Darwin's theory of evolution. According to the mufti, that's Islamically unacceptable. And—surprise, surprise—Pikachu and his Pokey pals are clearly Zionist agents. That six-pointed Star of David is a sly symbol for their "powers."
Though many serious Islamic thinkers find his reasoning laughable, the mufti has garnered support among some influential religious conservatives in the Arab world—-and among populations ready to see conspiracy wherever they look. Newsweek International
Qatar's Islamic authorities have joined in the edict. Dubai's have declared Pokemon "un-Islamic." In Jordan rumor has it that "Pokemon," which is short for "pocket monsters," means "Jewish" in Japanese or, more arcanely, "I am a Jew" in Syriac, a Middle Eastern language related to ancient Aramaic. The Syriac Orthodox Church in Jordan received so many threats that it felt compelled to publish an announcement in the local press denying it had any Pokemon connections.
Satoshi Tajiri, who developed Pokemon’s animated creatures, wanted to create games and collectibles that reminded him of his fondest childhood memories: capturing insects and watching monsters on TV. Since this total marketing phenomenon was launched in 1996, with the slogan "gotta catch ‘em all," it's grown to include not only cards and video games, but a television series and three full-length animated features, plus ubiquitous promotional tie-ins with snack and soft drink companies.
"I'm not letting my kids eat any more potato chips that have Pokemon coins inside since we all know that they have a material that gets into the skin of the potato, then into their stomachs and then causes infertility."
— PARENT'S LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE SEMI-OFFICIAL DAILY, AL-AHRAM
Ever wary of trends that sweep the globe, the muftis of the Gulf states discovered in Pokemon's jumbled iconography not only the six-pointed star of Judaism, but the crosses of Christianity and the triangles of Free-Masonry. (There were once swastikas, too, but in 1999 the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, which fights anti-Semitism, succeeded in having those removed.)
Reflecting the obsessions of adults even more than of children, the imagined conspiracy has taken on a sinister life of its own in the streets of the Arab world. In Egypt, the hysteria has reached fever pitch. "I'm not letting my kids eat any more potato chips that have Pokemon coins inside since we all know that they have a material that gets into the skin of the potato, then into their stomachs and then causes infertility,” wrote one parent in a letter to the editor of the semi-official daily, Al-Ahram.
Mahmood Abdallah, a history teacher in Kerdasa primary school, warned: "Our kids deal in these cards daily. They touch them and rub off the material covering the card which, in turn, will affect their fertility. They want our population to diminish so they can defeat us."
Some parents know better than to believe the anti-Pokemon propaganda, but they are happy to see anything that curtails their kids' obsessive consumerism. Pokemon is the most popular children's game in Egypt.
Stalls specializing in Pikachu toys and trinkets can be found even among the brass lamps and oriental carpets of the ancient Khan Khalili bazaar. A single pack of Pokemon cards may cost $16, but parents find it hard to say no. "You see a 50-year-old government employee who earns around $60 a month coming in with his kid to buy a 'booster pack' of cards that probably kills a fifth of his income," says Mohamed el-Sayyed, a young shop-keeper in Misr-al-kadimah neighborhood.
Meryat Samaha, a mother of school-age children in the affluent Cairo suburb of Maadi, takes an admittedly cynical view. "We have benefited from the hatred our Arab children have for Israel in order to convince them to stop this craziness playing Pokemon," she says.
And so the furor grows. None of this is likely to put much of a dent Pokemon's global sales, in fact. But hopes for rational discourse in the Arab world, and the credibility of its so-called Islamic scholars, may take a long time to recover. --Newsweek
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