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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Qatari religious leader bans Pokemon
Pokemon character
Pokemon is already banned in Saudi Arabia
The highest religious authority in the Gulf state of Qatar has banned Pokemon, the popular children's entertainment.

Sheikh Yussef Qardawi, the mufti of Qatar, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Pokemon "to preserve our children, their faith, their morale and their money".


Pokemon films and television programmes based on the game are banned to preserve our children

Yussef Qardawi,
Mufti of Qatar
The Qatari move follows a similar ban in Saudi Arabia which was announced at the end of March.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates are also considering banning Pokemon characters which appear in video games, on cards and in films and television.

Saudi mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah said all Muslims should be aware of the game and prevent their children playing it in order to protect their religion.

Since it was launched in 1996, Pokemon has become a craze among children around the world, and a multi-billion dollar industry.

Products destroyed

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

Pokemon cards
Saudi religious leaders say Pokemon encourages gambling
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instructed not to allow Pokemon into the country and that products that use Pokemon as a marketing device would also be withdrawn.

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.

The Saudi mufti 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:

26 Mar 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia bans Pokemon
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
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