Can Muslim Superheroes Turn Islamic Youth Away from Radicalism?

With an increasing emphasis on fantasy entertainment provided by mobile phone games, comic books and TV, there is some hope that radicalism will become a less attractive path for Islamic youth.

Wael El-Zanaty, an exec with the Egyptian firm behind cell phone game Bab el-Hara, told the Associated Press:

The best thing about this game is that this is something that Arabs can relate to. It’s about part of [Arab] history — the resistance to the French occupation [of Syria]… We wanted something that reflected our culture… developed with an Arab perspective.

The AP explains:

The Arab world’s private sector is leading a push to provide Muslim and Arab youth with homegrown heroes, as a bulwark against the trend toward radical Islam throughout the Middle East.

Clearly, superheroes won’t offset all the problems that stoke radicalism — anger at corrupt Arab regimes and at Israel over its treatment of Palestinians — but El-Zanaty said he hoped these pop culture characters could give young people a positive image of themselves as Arabs.

Meanwhile, Naif al-Mutawa, publisher of The 99 comic book superhero series, offered his view on how media can help deliver positive role models for Arab youth:

Our [Islamic] story has become [more] about what not to do, than about what to do. I wanted to … go back to the same sources others have pulled out a lot of negative ideas from, and pull out positive, tolerant, multicultural, accepting ideas.

I’m not trying to sell religion here. I’m trying to sell the idea that at the values level, we’re all the same…’  I really think that we [Arabs] limit ourselves with this catastrophic thinking that the world is controlled by others and there is nothing we can do. I think this is rubbish.

Mobile phone apps may be the ideal platform upon which to deliver the message, said Ayman Shoukry of the Good News Group:

[In Egypt alone] there are 40 million mobiles. We don’t have 40 million [other types of] devices anywhere in Egypt."

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