October 12, 2011

Ninety-nine new heroes

An Islamic-themed comic book comes under fire from U.S. critics for its portrayal of veiled women and religious motifs.

Author Naif Al-Mutawa sees his internationally popular comic book, “The 99”, not just as entertainment but as an important tool for dialogue between non-Muslim Americans and the global Muslim community.

“The idea was to reposition Islam not only to the West, but to Muslims themselves as well,” he said. The book features a multi-national cast, and not all the characters are ethnic Arabs or residents of the Middle East—Hadya the Guide, for example, is from London.

The characters have qualities that embody the 99 attributes of God, according to Islam. They boast powers like telepathy and super strength that help them fight villains.

But critics say those characters are promoting intolerance and a radical view of the religion, particularly because some of the female characters wear veils or headscarves. Conservative American commentator and blogger Pamela Geller has compared “The 99” to “cultural jihad,” and some others claim the book features “a posse of righteous, Sharia-compliant Muslim superheroes.

The author defends the comic as tolerant and calls critics “intellectual terrorists.”

“The 99” has recently been turned into an animated TV series and a theme park in Kuwait. A 2010 crossover edition with DC comics involved favourite American heroes such as Superman, and it is currently available in nine languages. American filmmaker Isaac Solotaroff has produced a documentary about how the comic book was made.

Author Naif Al-Mutawa joined the show via Skype.

These are some of the photos featured in this episode of The Stream.