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'The 99' Superheroes are New Islamic Mascots
Tuesday December 17, 2013 7:36 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba , ummid.com

Islam does not recognize any religious symbols; those symbols that are associated with Islam have now come to age. Many of them are being associated with modern day terrorism and it is very difficult for the young generation to relish and identify with such symbols.

As a result there is real complete paucity of modern day Islamic symbols that can nourish the growth of the young Muslim children across the globe.

99 Islamic Comic

The 99, Comic Book Series, brought by Tashkeel media, headed by a Kuwati trailblazer, Naif Al Mutawa, attempts to fill this gap.

In terms of popularity, among the current generation, 'The 99' comic series is currently making waves across the world. These new symbols of superheros epitomize peaceful coexistence between Islam and other religions of the world.

Modeled on the 99 attributes of Allah, the 99 concept is based on the sagas of the battle of good versus evil.

The narrative begins in the backdrop of 99 gems scattered throughout the world, each embodying one of the 99 characteristics of Allah.

The 99 gems scattered around the world are a metaphor for the spread of Islam that takes on as many faces as the places it's rooted in.

The historical setting is in the thirteenth century, the sacking of Baghdad and the Spanish crusades. The action revolves around 99 individuals living in 99 different countries who upon possessing one of these gems become superheroes.

These superheroes or new symbols of Islam do not belong to any one region, community, tribe or nation, they all are Muslims and from all over the world.

Jabbar, the enforcer, is a hulking figure from Saudi Arabia with the power to grow immense at a sneer.

Noora, the Light is from the United Arab Emirates who can read the truth and help people to see it in themselves. Darr is the afflicter from the United States.

Of the 99 superheroes, almost half of them are female and 31 of them wear hijab. However, none have the feminine characteristics.

Batina, derived from the word meaning hidden, is superwoman. Mumita who hails from Portugal has unparalleled agility.

The 99 superheroes go on to personify the modern day Islamic Diaspora. Multicultural backgrounds are found in several of its characters. One such character is from Sudan who grew up in France.

'The 99' concept symbolizes the universality of Islam. It doesn't directly incorporate the religion as such but only its positive values. There's no mention of Allah or the Prophet (pbuh). Nobody is praying, nobody's is reading the Quran. There's no religion in the book. It's based on the basic human values that are real virtues of Islam. The attributes of Allah…generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight and mercy is the essence of 'the 99', concept.

First, many Islamic symbols are negatively being portrayed in the mass media these days. Such symbols have come to be associated with terrorism and violence and have negative fallout on the mind of the viewers.

The universality of the 99 superheroes tries to demolish all such negativity and enthuses the modern generation with new synergies. There is general acceptance of the new symbols across the religious faith and is becoming harbinger in spreading the message of peace.

The other effects of the new symbols of Islam are to unite the Muslim community that remains divided in the world today. Except with the Holy Book and the Prophet (pbuh), there is hardly any rallying point around which every Muslim can unite.

'The 99' Islamic symbols are the quest of the Muslims to live peacefully within the Islamic faith. It's also preaches the message of peaceful coexistence among other religious faiths belonging to different communities, societies and nationalities across the world.

The educational, social and cultural effects of 'The 99' symbols is having a sobering influence on the society and it is contributing towards global peace, that is essentially the message of Islam.

This is an abstract of the paper entitled; "Educational, Social and Cultural Affects of Religious Symbols - A Case Study of The 99, Comic Book Series."

These ideas has to be developed further into a full length paper for presentation at 4th international Seminar on "Peaceful coexistence" with focus on Religious symbols in Islam and Indian Religions to be held in India New Delhi on 3-4 March 2014.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennnai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com


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