Thursday, September 8, 2011
Wham! Bam! Islam!
Move over, Spiderman and Wolverine! There are some new superheroes in town.
The 99 is a cast of superheroes, each one representing one of the 99 virtues of Islam. They are being brought to the world in the form of colorful high-quality comic books by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa and will soon be coming to your television screens as an animated series.
Each of The 99's superheroes, who possess a variety of super powers, hails from a different country and are portrayed in both male and female form. The very first episode, called "Origins," goes back in time to the 13th century and depicts an important Islamic library being destroyed. Somehow the 99 virtues of Allah manage to remain preserved. Ensuing issues involve each of the superheroes battling for the cause of good over evil. Al-Mutawa has been vigilant about keeping The 99 free of political overtones. It is important to note that The 99 characters are not all Muslim either. They represent the virtues of Islam, not Islam itself.
But combating crime and evil doers are not the only challenges facing The 99. Saudi Arabia's clerical community has not embraced the idea of The 99 and has forbidden the comic books from entering the country. Comic books have never really been as popular in Muslim countries as they are in other places around the world, and the Islamic world has certainly never endorsed superheroes of any kind. One of Al-Mutawa's wishes is that The 99 will transcend its emphasis on Islam, and that the virtues The 99 extolls will be seen as relevant to every child, no matter what their religion.
On October 2, New York's Lincoln Center will be hosting the New York Film Festival's World Premiere of "The 99 - Unbound."
Mark your calendars for October 13. On that day, PBS will air the documentary "Wham! Bam! Islam!" in the US about Naif Al-Mutawa and his creation of The 99. Check your local listings for the airing time in your area.
The 99 Facebook Page
Newsweek Pakistan article "New Age, New Heroes" (April 2011)
The Atlantic article, "Super Muslims"