30 October 2005

Gaming for Allah, or, Putting the Fun in Fundamentalism

A column in the October Harper's Magazine mentions a fascinating but not surprising development in the world of computer gaming. The Iqra Learning Center in Leeds, England is distributing games with Muslim themes. In one, an evil wizard named Darlak the Deceiver imprisoned Islamic teachers and hid the Koran - the player must rescue the prisoners and "reestablish the true worship of Allah on Earth." Another game, set in the year 2114, sees the planet united under the Banner of Islam. Alas, the happy Muslim Earth is attacked by the Flying Evil Robot Armada directed by Abu Lahab XVIII, the only surviving disbeliever. In a third game, set in 2214, Musaylema II (an apprentice of Abu Lahab XVIII, incidentally)
has managed to develop a robot base on Earth and to capture the 'Crown of the Believers,' the Muslims' prized turban, which can protect its wearer from harm. The Robot Army functions because of hidden generators. Your new job is to seek out these generators and destroy them.
Are these games innocent escapism, or a dangerous suggestion of a war between civilizations? Ah, people - they're just games. And at least they don't pit Muslim believers against frothing masses of unbelieving humans. (Though the heat about these games may have had some fallout - the game developer's site - http://islamgames.com - seems to be offline.)

The real tragedy is the subtext that the world is black and white, that concept common to all fundamentalists (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc.) that "if everyone else believed what I believe, the world would be at peace." It's simple, it's clear. And it's demonstrably wrong. The divine speaks to people in different ways, even people raised in the same culture and circumstances. Religions fragment, come together, fragment again. Fundamentalists don't seem to recognize this reality in their one-size-fits-all theology.

Fortunately, the human spirit (or divine spark, or soul, or whatever you want to call it) reflects the divine/infinite/God/Allah/Jahweh, and thus contains infinite patience, creativity, joy, love, truth, and life. These will outlast any fundamentalism, even if some may find short-term enjoyment in blasting blasphemous robots.

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