Islamic Superheroes

Here’s an interesting presentation by Naif Al-Mutawa. He has created a group of superheroes based on Islamic culture and religion.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

I have mixed feelings about it. His heart is clearly in the right place, but… I think my misgivings are crystallised by the comments from “a persona” on the TED page of the video:

superficially commendable reframing exercise with profound problems.

– Naif conflates thema with schema in describing archetypes as christian. Archetypes didn’t come from the bible – the bible (as with the qur’an) came from archetypes. they reflect aspects of human psychology, and to misappropriate them in this way is disingenuous at best.

– Values aren’t islamic or christian, in the same way that logic isn’t greek and science isn’t western. this is a classic argument used by religious apologists. (“judeo-christian values”, “islamic values”). values are values because they are to the good, or otherwise, of human life.

The issue should not be to make people feel good about being muslims. it should be to educate people that values are intrinsic, not because mohammed espoused them. the 99 is based on a lie – that these values are good because mohammed, through allah, says that they are good. teach that reality is the authority, not another fictional cartoon character such as allah.

These points summarise my view. The whole point about Superman and other superheroes is that they draw upon archetypes that are not tied to any one religion, but to something deeper and more fundamental – our very humanity. Linking superheroes explicitly to one religion – whatever it is – could well end up backfiring on the good intentions behind their creation. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens with the 99 over the next few years, and how the children who read about their adventures will develop and take their place in tomorrow’s world.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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