Saudis Deny Fatwa Against Pokémon Go Has Been Reissued

Posted on: July 24, 2016, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2016, 04:45h.

Rest easy, Pokémon Go fans in the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi government has quelled the horrific rumor that you might not be able to play the game you love. All is right with the world.

Pokemon Go Saudi fatwa denied
Is there or isn’t there? Conflicting information on the revival of an old Saudi fatwa on the popular new app Pokémon Go may have players going in circles. Oh wait, they are doing that anyway. (Image:

The game that has grabbed the minds and bodies of people everywhere, from the Las Vegas Strip to UK bookmakers offering lines on how quickly the game would fall from favor, is A-OK for the UAE as well.

In an official statement issued late last week, the government assured players they were safe to walk into man holes and cause enormous traffic pileups, just like Pokémon Go aficianados the world over have been doing since the insanely popular app hit the market just this month.

“No religious fatwa came from the council for senior scholars in Saudi regarding the Pokemon Go game,”  was the word from the government, although no specific attribution was given to this statement, so take that under advisement.

You may be challenged even finding the app, because technically, it’s not yet on the Saudi market. But you know what will stop someone determined to get in on the latest trend: nothing nada bupkes. Apparently, some clever Saudis have figured out how to download the app their own way.

What’s the Problem?

From whence did all this hysteria arise, anyway?

Apparently, when the first version of Pokémon emerged around 2001, Fatwa #21758 (that’s a lot of fatwas) hit the street, declaring the game unfit for Muslims because it embraced non-Muslim religious concepts, including gambling and that man is descended from apes, à la Darwin.

When the newer version hit the globe, rumors circulated that 78-year-old Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said that the original fatwa would be revived, effectively banning the mobile app version from the conservative Wahhabi kingdom.

“The theory of evolution is a main element,” explained the original religious edict. “One of the most important things that makes man condemn this game is adopting the theory of evolution developed by Darwin.

“This theory states that all species of organisms evolve and that the origin of man was an ape. Astonishingly, the children frequently use the word ‘evolution’ inside and outside the game. You can hear them saying that this creature contained in the card has evolved to another form.”

Devious Organizations

The fatwa reportedly went on to complain that the game also contained symbols “associated with Judaism,” specifically a six-pointed star, as well as Christianity, specifically a cross, as well as “angles and triangles” used by many “devious organizations.”

“This game promotes and circulates the symbols of disbelievers and the forbidden images. It is also a form of consuming money unlawfully,” said the fatwa. The Pokémon cartoons, meanwhile, exist to “possess the minds” of children, the cleric opined.

Al-Jazeera reported this week that the kingdom’s Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has waded into the debate, warning that apps like Pokémon Go could expose the user’s location to “prying eyes,” an assertion that has actually been made by plenty of non-Saudi organizations also.

There have even been reported cases of muggings when criminals were able to track specific locations of Pokémon Go users.

Chess Ban Also

Pokémon Go hasn’t been the only game to receive the cold shoulder from the Saudi Ulama. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh recently declared chess to be a “work of Satan,” banning it on the grounds that it was “a waste of time.”

Meanwhile, Pokémon Go is also ruffling feathers in Egypt, where deputy chief of the Al-Azhar Islamic institution Abbas Shuman has called it a “harmful mania.”

“This game makes people look like drunkards in the streets and on the roads while their eyes are glued to the mobile screens leading them to the location of the imaginary Pokémon in the hope of catching it,” Shuman said.

Well, we can’t really argue with the guy on that one.