Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Islam Online: "the world's first Muslim superheroes"

I am not posting this to sneer at it. I mean, you could have a lot of fun at the expense of Widad the Loving, but perhaps this is something positive.
The world is always in need of saving. It could not be any more obvious, being a recurring theme in many of the stories that we human beings create. It is the stuff of mythology and folklore and, in these modern times, of comic books. The comic book industry has thrived on heroes with extraordinary abilities who save entire cities and fight against the forces of evil that threaten to destroy the world. Sometimes they do it single-handedly like Superman and Spiderman, with side-kicks like Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, or as a big group like the Justice League or the X-Men.

The 99 fits in just beautifully. They're a big - and still growing - group of teenagers and adults with super powers. They've got the funky outfits and hairdos. Most of them have either mysterious or angst-filled backgrounds. Looking at them is like looking at the United Nations: You've got one from every corner of the world. And the thing that makes them truly unique? They are the world's first Muslim superheroes.

The characters are based on Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures. The 99, apart from being the name of the series, also refers to the 99 attributes of God which the characters will personify. Yet only 70 characters will be introduced, says series creator Naif Al-Mutawa, because only God possesses all 99 qualities. The characters are in search of the 99 Noor Stones scattered all over the world centuries ago when the dome of the Great Fortress of Knowledge exploded as King Ferdinand of Spain's troops approached the stronghold in Granada. Dr. Ramzi Razem is a present-day psychiatrist who has made it his life's work to find these precious gems and the people who possess them, in the hopes that he can teach these chosen ones to harness their new-found powers for good, both within themselves and in the world.

Another thing that makes The 99 distinctive is that they do not use weapons, but instead use the gifts they are given. Take for instance Jabbar the Powerful, who has superhuman strength; Widad the Loving, who can induce good feelings in others by controling chemical processes in the brain; Noora the Light, who has the power to see the truth, and Hidayeh the Guide, who is like a human GPS feeling for the right direction and finding uncharted places. The superheroes work in threes, and because of the diversity of cultures and powers among them, the message of tolerance and acceptance is highlighted. Also, none of the heroes have more than one power: Every character manifests one of the powers of God but to a much lesser degree. [...]

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