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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Saudis to stamp out Pokemon
Pokemon character
Pokemon has enthralled children across the world
By the BBC's Caroline Hawley

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have said they will confiscate and destroy the popular Japanese children's game Pokemon after a religious ruling against it earlier in the week.

The country's highest religious authority, the Mufti, said all Muslims should be aware of the game and prevent their children playing it in order to protect their religion.


All Muslims must be aware of this game and prevent their children from playing it so as to protect their religion and manners

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah
Since it was launched, Pokemon has become a craze among children around the world, and a multi-billion dollar industry.

First came the fatwa against Pokemon, now pledges from the Saudi authorities to act.

Gambling

A senior official in the Commerce Ministry, Abdul Ali al-Abdul Ali, told a Saudi newspaper that Pokemon products would be taken from the shelves and destroyed.

He said Saudi customs officials would also be instructed not to allow Pokemon into the country and that products that use Pokemon as a marketing device would also be withdrawn.

Pokemon cards
Saudi religious leaders say Pokemon encourages gambling
It is not the first time concerns have been raised about Pokemon.

In the United States, trading in Pokemon cards has been banned in many schools on the grounds that it is distracting children from their studies.

'Zionism'

The objections in Saudi Arabia, though, are rather more comprehensive.

Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah said it encouraged gambling as well as carrying religious symbols that he said represented Zionism, Christianity and Free Masonry.

He said the concept of the Pokemon characters also appeared to be based on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which Islam rejects.

Pokemon has denied it uses religious symbols, but the fatwa against it in its biggest market in the Middle East is a blow for it as it tries to expand sales in the region.

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See also:

21 Dec 00 | Wales
Girl, 6, lured by Pokemon cards
09 May 00 | UK
Pokémon card crime
28 Apr 00 | UK
Pokemon baby swap offer
24 Apr 00 | Education
Pokémon upsets heads and parents
26 Mar 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia bans Pokemon
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