Monday, October 20, 2008

The Video Game Hubbub

I wrote a while back about Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure on the Wii you can read the original post here.

Like any group of fun loving people out there, Moslems love their video games and it seems the video games industry loves us too.

LittleBigPlanet is a Sony game that got delayed, because Sony didnt want to offend Muslims. Maybe they didnt want the negative spin, since with Muslims it can get nasty- sad, but true, for a game that was, is, meant to be enjoyed by all.

I can imagine Sony not wanting negative attention. As a Muslim I apprieciate their concern. I want them to feel that there is nothing wrong with being senstive to Muslim issues that pertain to religion and practice and beliefs.

There is, however, a difference in what is legitimate concern and what is just outright over caucious paranoia. Here it is paranoia. This is why:

The Arabic, are verses of the Quran, however, they are not in its entiriety, rather just portions of the Quranic verses, and yes they are put to music and to lyrics in a West African song by a West African singer- "Tapha Niang" from the 2006 album Boulevard de l'Independance by Grammy award-winning Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté.

In all other games, like Zack and Wiki, there was a clear in appropriate use of Arabic. If an artist took Surah Fatiha and decided to sing it to an electric guitar, yes I would say that is inappropriate. But a singer using portions of verses that can basically be common day utterences like "everyone will taste death" or "everything in the world will perish" as is the case in the song, then why make a fuss over it?

At slate there is a nice discussion, you can read it here.

What I found of interest was Ahmed Rehab, (disclaimer, I work for CAIR and so does Rehab) and I took the email pasted at slate and inserted it below:

Ahmed M. Rehab, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), wrote me in an e-mail:

I fished out the song on the internet and heard it. I have no problem with it. I am a fan of Muslim West African music and art. I would have a problem if someone were to sing the lyrics of the Qur'an to some kind of tune, but this was a tasteful citation of a few words from the Qur'an -- not entire verses -- that were chanted in typical West African fashion, not sung to a melody, granted there was music in the background.

Personally, I find the song to be beautiful and touching. But I respect the views of those who have taken offense and I appreciate that Sony has as well. To be fair, I believe Sony is under no obligation to recall the game given that the song was not of their own making, but that of a devout Muslim who allowed them to use it. However, I think they made an admirable decision to respect the sensitivities of their customers who were offended, which is a wise decision from both a marketing and community relations perspective.

He added:

Keep in mind though, I reckon there is a huge market for Sony's games in Indonesia, Malaysia, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. It just may be that Sony is at the end of the day concerned about its bottom line, not so much sensitivities.

I think a total recall was not necessary, but kudos for Sony, next time they should consult with world religious organizations to get a better handle on opinions of Muslims rather then just a few concerned gamers. Also enjoy below the song in the game.


Zahra Billoo said...

The song is a little clearer here:

The controversial phrases are at the 18th and 27th seconds.

Huda Shaka` said...

Musician defends song: