At other times he says he devised the series on concluding that “the Arab world needed better role models.” He aspired to develop “a new cast of superheroes for the children of the Islamic world” and hoped his work “may well help save a generation” of Muslims. He even thinks his cartoon characters can “salvage Islam’s reputation.” Indeed, discussion about The 99 stresses its Islamic component. The New York Times notes that its superheroes are “aimed specifically at young Muslim readers and focusing on Muslim virtues.” The Times of London described the series’ mission as instilling “old-fashioned Islamic values in Christian, Jewish and atheist children.”
Likewise, Barack Obama praised the comic books for having “captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.” An Islamic investment bank whose products “fully comply with Shari’ah principles” invested $15.9 million in Teshkeel and complimented it for “highlighting Islam’s rich culture and heritage.”
In short, The 99
, available in both Arabic
, contains overtly Islamic content and explicitly promotes Islam. Granted, its Islam has modern aspects, but among non-Muslims the series engages in surreptitious dawa.
In addition to the comic books, Al-Mutawa has developed some spinoffs (online comics, games
, lunch boxes, and theme parks
) and envisages others (newspaper comics, stickers, and perhaps toys
). But most of all, he wants an animated cartoon. Although the Hub network planned in 2011 to air The 99
, this never happened, largely because criticism
caused it to shy away from a show instilling “Islamic values in Christian, Jewish and atheist children.”
In short, to the Islamic indoctrination of Western children, already present in schools through textbooks
, additional school materials
, and classroom trips
, now add comic books and their many spin-offs, actual and potential. The 99
might be fine for Muslim children but, support from Georgetown University notwithstanding, non-Muslim children should not be exposed to missionizing propaganda of this sort.— Daniel Pipes is President of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.