It should come as no surprise then that in the Arab world, comics are often used for purposes of indoctrination: "In Iran, on Al-Quds Day, Iranian TV schedules are filled with cartoons about evil Israelis with red eyes, shooting and murdering innocent doe-eyed Palestinians... For older kids, the heroes fight back, and even get martyred in the cause of Allah... [the shows are used] to reinforce Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic propaganda."
Now a new series of comic books -- featuring Muslim superheroes -- are on sale in the United States. The Ninety-Nine comic series features a set of superheroes, each representing one of the 99 names of Allah.
The comics were first published in Kuwait and are distributed in the United States by Diamond.
ForwardSyria describes the characters as the brainchildren of Naif al-Mutawa, a psychologist by training.
Following President Obama’s speech committing the US to engage with the Arab world, Mutawa seized the opportunity to propose a crossover with the heroes of DC comics. The deal is underway to have heroes from the Justice League help out their new comrades, Jabbar, Jami, and Widad under the guidance of Dr. Ramzi as they battle Rughal to protect the stones of wisdom. This cast will also find its way to televisions soon, as Teshkeel Media enters into a partnership with UK animator Endemol.
President Obama has gone so far as to praise The 99 at the 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
The American president heaped praise on Naif al-Mutawa, whose superhero comic book, “THE 99” – ubiquitous at the summit – features Islamic themes. The President said that Mutawa had borrowed a page from Obama's Cairo playbook by introducing Superman and Batman to their Muslim counterparts. “And I hear they're making progress, too,” said Obama.
At the same time, negotiations with a major US cable broadcaster to air THE 99 animation series beginning this fall is in its final stages.
I won't ask why President Obama has praised a particular set of religious superheroes. Suffice it to say that it just seems odd.
I will observe that with or without the president's imprimatur, very little can possibly go wrong with a set of Muslim superheroes destined to leave indelible memories on impressionable young minds.