UAE: Pokemon Faced with Fatwa Against Gambling


Religious committee members in the United Arab Emirates have issued a fatwa against popular children's game Pokemon because of fears that it promotes gambling. The edict warned parents the Pokemon video game and cards were based on the betting principles of one side winning and the other losing.

It added the game was also based on the theory of evolution, "a Jewish-Darwinist theory, that conflicts with the truth about humans and with Islamic principles". The fatwa does not mean the game has been banned, as it has in other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia.

However, it adds to the growing religious resistance in the Middle East to the game because of its perceived bad influence. "The ruling carries no legal force in the Emirates, and was issued as advice for concerned Muslims," said Sheik Ahmed al-Haddad, assistant director of Dubai's Research and Fatwa Administration.

The fatwa also warned that the game promoted violence. Nintendo, makers of Pokemon, have denied that it promotes gambling or any religious beliefs. The Darwinist accusation comes from the use of the verb "evolve" to describe how one player is allowed to improve the power of the cards in play.

The Pokemon game was banned in Saudi Arabia in March. Religious scholars in Qatar and Egypt have also made Pokemon "haram" - or religiously prohibited. Pokemon has become a craze among children since it first appeared in Japan three years ago.

It began as a video game but soon expanded into cartoons, comic books, trading cards and films around the globe. But the game has also come under fire in Christian countries. In Mexico, the Catholic Church called the game "demonic". In Slovakia, some organisations claimed the TV cartoon based on the game was harmful to children. Many schools in the US have banned the trading cards because they are said to be distracting pupils from their studies. In the UK, police have urged parents not to allow children out with the cards, although in school many have fought to get their hands on them.

There are 151 Pokemon cards, each with a brightly coloured picture of a character. Geometric symbols correspond to the powers of the character.