We all know what ISIL is. Naif Al-Mutawa is an old friend of mine who has created the wonderful Arabic/English language cartoon series The 99. The 99 represent the 99 attributes of Allah -- characteristics that are also possessed by humans as well but, according to Wikipedia, "This serves to remind [us] that The 99 are only mortals, and sets them as human role models, with their qualities and weaknesses."
The cartoons have been broadcasted daily in many areas of the Arab world, stretching from the Mediterranean to Indonesia. Several years ago, an English language version was acquired by an American distributor but, despite President Obama's endorsement, the distributors backed down when Tea Party types persuaded the distributer that the series was pro-Muslim; therefore anti-American.
On the other hand, Naif reports that he has been sued for "heresy" by a man "whose view of reality is narrow and violent" and who has convinced the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh that "The 99 is a work of the devil that should be condemned and forbidden in respect to Allah's name and attributes."
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Naif's native country and place of residence, have issued fatwas condemning the series as "blasphemous" even though it "has been approved by the ministries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was funded by a Saudi Islamic Investment Bank..."
Nevertheless, the fatwa accusations have "led to an avalanche of extremists, each trying to out due one another" and led to death threats from Twitter accounts linked to ISIL and Al Qaeda.
Naif himself is "considering going to Kuwait to answer charges of heresy." He adds that "The ministry of information has turned a number of production companies over to the public prosecutor for violating the audio-visual media law." He ends his plea:
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..
It occurs to me that when ministries, ISIL, and Al Qaeda all agree that a harmless and clever cartoon series poses a threat, "Islam" is retreating to a world that ended a thousand years ago with Muslim countries becoming more and more a part of the modern world. Oil money has brought freedom to much of the Middle East, it would be a shame to waste it now in the name of a 10th century reversion to its extremist roots.
I pray that Allah bless Naif and protect The 99, long may it proclaim the highest ideals of Islam.
You can find Naif's essay, "Broken legs, death threats and fatwas: the trials and tribulations of The 99" here.