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Saudi revives fatwa on ‘Zionism-promoting’ Pokemon

New highly popular iteration of the game leads Saudi clerics to renew 2001 ban on game which they claim also encourages gambling

Saudi men play with the Pokemon Go app on their mobile phones in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital on July 17, 2016.  (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)
Saudi men play with the Pokemon Go app on their mobile phones in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital on July 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

Pokemon Go may be taking the world by storm but don’t try hunting for Pikachu, Pidgey or Rattata in Saudi Arabia, as clerics there have renewed a 15-year-old ban on the game.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars reaffirmed a 2001 ban on the game, according to Reuters, following the release of a new highly popular augmented reality version of the game, in which players use their smartphones to gather virtual Pokemon.

While fatwa no. 21,758 makes no mention of the latest iteration of game, it does list many sinful aspects of Pokemon.

Firstly, the game is seen as a form of gambling, which itself is forbidden. Secondly, it encourages belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, and thirdly, the fatwa says, the symbols used in the game promote the Shinto religion of Japan, Christianity, Freemasonry and “global Zionism.”

“The symbols and logos of devious religions and organizations are used [including] the six-pointed star: You rarely find a card that does not contain such a star. It is associated with Judaism, the logo and sign of the State of Israel, and the first symbol of the Masonry organizations in the world,” the ruling says.

Other countries are also not in favor of Pokemon Go. In Egypt, Hamdi Bakheet, a member of the committee of defense and national security told parliament that the game was being used for espionage by the country’s enemies, Al-Jazeera reported.

“Pokemon Go is the latest tool used by spy agencies in the intel war, a cunning despicable app that tries to infiltrate our communities in the most innocent way under the pretext of entertainment. But all they really want is to spy on people and the state,” he said.

In United Arab Emirates, a fatwa was also issued in 2001 claiming that Pokemon promotes gambling, according to the BBC. However it seems that the rules are not so strictly enforced now, as users are tweeting their favorite hunting grounds.


There are no such bans in Israel, where Pokemon have been spotted everywhere, from the Western Wall to the President’s Residence.

שמישהו יקרא לאבטחת אישים.

Posted by ‎Reuven Ruvi Rivlin – ראובן רובי ריבלין‎ on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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