An armed Libyan group attacked and closed a comic book convention in Tripoli over the weekend. The organizers were detained for an “attack on morals and modesty.”
This was the city’s second comic convention and hundreds attended it before it was cut short, even cosplaying as their favorite characters. The arrests came on the second of the three day event.
That same day, the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) entered the venue arresting the organizers and seizing materials. The group are Salafist’s, ultra-conservative “reform branch” who are Sunni Islamists. The group claimed the organizers “preyed” on the city youth and were going to hand over those seized to prosecutors. The group sees themselves as an “anti-crime unit.”
Rada in a statement said the Comic Con was:
…derived from abroad and exploit weakness of religious faith and fascination with foreign cultures.
The organisers and supervisors of the event were arrested and will be presented for public prosecution for acts of indecency and against public morals.
It is necessary to address these destructive phenomena and fight them, which drive the dissemination of pornography and feed the minds of teenagers and motivate them to kill and mutilate through well-known cartoons.”
Some Libyans had attacked the convention on social media claiming it was un-Islamic and a “Halloween party.”
Since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, militia groups have stepped in to fill the security vacuum that has been created under the U.N.-back Government of National Accord.
Check out a video below from last year’s debut convention:
Comic creator Bosch Fawstin is in the center of controversy after his portrait of Mohammad won the contest hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). That contest spurred two terrorists to attempt an attack on the event hosted by AFDI. Both gunmen were killed by police.
Fawstin, a New York born, former Muslim, won $12,500 in prize money for his art.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization which tracks hate groups, includes the AFDI in its annual list of U.S. hate groups. They plan on adding Fawstin to the list according to Heidi Beirich, director of the tracking effort. In full disclosure, I’m very much a supporter of the SPLC, and find Fawstin’s and the AFDI’s beliefs disgusting. Beirich said to Reuters that Fawstin would have been listed before, but was not due to the fact they were unable to figure out his location.
Beirich said to Reuters:
He’s like the artist of the movement. His views, they are hate views.
Fawstin said he fears for his safety, but will continue his work. To Reuters, he said:
It definitely is concerning. You do your work and people out there want to kill you for it. I understand the threat, but I’m not going to be cowed by it. I still intend to go up there and I still intend to speak out.
And on being added by the SPLC:
So they want to put a cartoonist on there who doesn’t act out violently? Go for it.
It should be made clear, Fawstin is against all Islam:
I am not a critic of "Radical Islam", I am a radical critic of Islam.
For those not in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or Washington, DC, the hate group, American Freedom Defense Initiative run by anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller, has been running ads on buses telling the “truth” about Islam. Really, it’s a lot of bigotry and hate. A federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to run the ads, and its not the first time that the MTA has had controversial ads run.
Graphic Policy Radio co-host Elana pointed out this awesome photo posted by the Muslim Community Network where we see Marvel‘s hit new hero Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, covering up the ads that are running in San Francisco and preaching to “stop the hate.”
Kamala stars in her own series Ms. Marvel published by Marvel comics, and is a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey. A brand new character, she’s broken out and one of the stand-out comic debuts of 2014. The comic is written by G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim herself, and is a prime example of the new diversity in comics. It helps that the comic is a fantastic read no matter you’re background.
This is an awesome example of culture jamming, using pop-culture to fight hate speech! Whomever is doing this, awesome job.
Update: We had indicated these buses were in NYC, but in fact this is San Francisco.
The below is reprinted with permission by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the series The 99. The series helps present modern, constructive roles for youth in the Arab world. It’s a shining example of positive engagement. The below discusses some of the attacks he has received due to his creations including a Fatwa, charges of heresy, and death threats. We stand and support Naif, condemning the threats, we ask you to join in and do so as well.
Many years ago, I was the volleyball counsellor at a summer camp in New England. It was 1990 and I was fit for five minutes. It seems there’s always an injury I can blame my (lack of) fitness on. That summer was no different.
Running into the lake, I slipped. My hands instinctively shielded my face from hitting the lake bottom and my elbows jerked back and got caught in the sand, sending my right shoulder out of its socket. I popped it back in. It was painful. I had to rest for a week before seeing a doctor. And then, on the way to the clinic, I had a terrible car accident that meant I completed my journey to the hospital in an ambulance. I’ve had my share of car accidents. Two of them were not my fault. This was one of those. It involved being shunted by a Mack truck while I was stationary at a traffic light.
At the hospital I was told that my shoulder had popped out again and that the boot of my car had been compressed to within inches of my head. I was lucky.
It was there I met an ambulance chaser, which was a first. I got his card. I got his pitch. I told him there and then not to bother: if the lorry driver who had written off my car had money, I reasoned, he would have had brakes too. I also told him I did not want to live my life by taking something away from someone else. I wanted to create rather than destroy. I did not want to be associated with a bottom feeder.
A few weeks later, a six-year-old boy sneaked up on me while I was brushing my teeth and said: “You don’t have a country … you don’t have a country …” A fellow counsellor who had roughly the same intellect as the young boy was hiding behind a tree. He had put the child up to it. It was surreal.
I called my father in Kuwait and he casually explained to me that Iraq’s invasion was a routine matter that would solve itself in a matter of days. It didn’t. The things fathers say.
Now, many years later, I have spent the summer recovering from another painful injury (giving me another excuse to explain away why I’m still not fit).
Last summer, as I was leaving my children’s summer camp in New England, I missed a step on an outdoor staircase and got my leg caught between a step and a tree root. I went in one direction and my leg in another. I broke my leg so badly my bones came out of my body for a breath of fresh air. My surgeon referred to my fracture as Humpty Dumpty. It took several surgeries and months of physical therapy to start to feel normal again.
While I recovered, another bottom feeder made his way into my life, this time forcefully. A man whose view of reality is narrow and violent, sued me for heresy and went around submitting false accusations to various institutions asking for a fatwa on my work with THE 99, a super-hero cartoon series I created based on the 99 attributes of God.
Sadly, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the ministry of Islamic affairs in Kuwait did not do their homework and issued fatwas condemning THE 99 based on false accusations and misstatements provided by this ambulance chaser. This is after THE 99 had been broadcast daily for two years all over the world.
The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, world leaders including president Barack Obama, the emir of Kuwait and many others endorsed my work for bridging cultures and tolerance.
In fact, THE 99 has been approved by the ministries of information in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was funded by a Saudi Islamic Investment Bank with its own Sharia board.
This accusation opened up a Pandora’s box and led to an avalanche of extremists each trying to outdo one another. It led to fatwas and more recently death threats from Twitter accounts linked to ISIL and Al Qaeda.
You can imagine the call I had with my parents and my children when the front page of Kuwait’s leading daily newspaper quoted various death threats. Look on the bright side I told my parents. This shows the impact of THE 99.
My son, who is a summer camp counsellor this year, called me in a state of panic. His friends told him I was dead or that I was going to jail. I tried to allay his fears by telling him it was routine. The things fathers say.
But that is not the end of the story. The early 1990s witnessed Disney releasing their smash hit Aladdin. The opening lyrics of the song entitled Arabian Nights were: “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”
Having released it on the heels of Desert Storm, Disney thought they could get away with the lyrics. They couldn’t. Protests led to changing the lyrics on the video and DVD versions. I was among the protesters.
Last week I took my children to watch Aladdin the Musical on Broadway. And as I sat in the audience I couldn’t help wonder should those lyrics have been changed? Should I have protested against them? Isn’t someone trying to cut off my head because they don’t like the way I think?
As I write this I am considering going to Kuwait to answer charges of heresy. The ministry of information has turned a number of production companies over to the public prosecutor for violating the audio-visual media law.
May God bless Kuwait and may the forces of darkness not muffle innovation and creativity. And may the ministries start to understand that in the name of protecting our culture they are responsible for killing it by scaring off the content creators and the content investors.
Why would anyone invest in media content if the producers can be sent off to the public prosecutor’s office and potentially serve jail time. Isn’t it just easier to keep dubbing Turkish, Mexican and American dramas?
And if we keep doing that, aren’t we diluting our culture? And if we do, then whose fault is that? Perhaps the ministries were not set up to protect our culture after all.
Naif Al-Mutawa is a Kuwait-born, U.S. educated psychologist who created “THE 99,” a comic book about a group of superheroes based on Islamic archetypes. See http://www.al-mutawa.com/
Dr. Nayef Al-Mutawa has 99 problems and ISIS is one. The creator of the comic/cartoon series The 99 has been deemed “slanderous to Islam” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as well as Al-Qaeda. The terrorist group has taken to social media calling for the assassination of the creator. Al-Mutawa has defended the work, even going so far as receiving clearance from sharia scholars who said the comics do not insult Allah or Islam.
Al-Mutawa is taking the threats seriously, going as far as seeking legal action against those behind the Twitter account. The Kuwait Times even said:
The head of the Human Rights Basic Elements Society Dr Yousef Al-Sager stressed that such fatwas must be issued by courts because it is very dangerous to follow fatwas from such anonymous social media accounts.
The comic was created to present a positive portrayal of Muslims, and provide Muslim children positive role models with each character embodying a pillar of the religion.
Comics have had an interesting role in the Arab and Muslim world, often being used to express frustration with overtly restrictive governments, helping with revolution, or attempting to present a better spotlight on the Islamic faith and its Muslim worshipers. The Daily Beast has reported that Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh issued a fatwa – a legal opinion or advice from the Islamic faith – against the comic book and TV show The 99. The series featured characters who identify with the 99 names of Allah and have been the focus of controversy here in the United States.
Created by Naif al-Mutawa the comic was created to present a positive portrayal of Muslims, and provide Muslim children positive role models. The fatwa issued calls the comics:
…evil work that needs to be shunned…
That’d be the exact opposite of what the point of the comic is. The comic has been praised by the United States, which has highlighted it numerous times.
Naif al-Mutawa vented his frustration talking to The Daily Beast:
We put Saudi super heroes on global television. We are saying, ‘We are the good guys, not the bad guys,’ and these people are saying, ‘No, you are wrong, we actually are the bad guys. Stop spreading lies, Naif!’
Batman, Superman and… Jabbar the Powerful? These superheroes may have more in common than you think. Check out this webchat featuring David Glanzer, Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International, and Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, exchange alumnus and creator of THE 99 — the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.
The U.S. Department of State has turned to digital diplomacy in the form of their Co.Nx web portal which features video, audio, Twitter and more. It’s a space for an “interactive exchange of ideas” like the above that brought together members of the State Department and some one of the creators of the Mulsim superhero team The 99.