The Saudi-based Islamic group Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) spoke out Tuesday against "Faith Fighter" -- an online video game that pits notable characters from Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism against each other in combat -- and demanded that the game be taken down from its host website, the AP reports. The OIC regards the game, created by Italian-based Molleindustria, as offensive to the world's religions, describing it as "incendiary in its content". The OIC statement in full reads:
When his attention was brought to an internet report posted by metro.co.uk on an online game depicting holy figures such as Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) fighting each other to the death, a spokesman of the OIC Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah today expressed his concern stating that the computer game was incendiary in its content and offensive to Muslims and Christians.
He said that the game would serve no other purpose than to incite intolerance. He called on the Internet service providers who are hosting the game to take immediate action by withdrawing it from the web.
Sure enough, as a result of the OIC's demands, "Faith Fighter" has now indeed been removed. Molleindustria is issuing the following statement (located in full here), in place of the game on their site:
Today after an official statement of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) we decided to remove the game Faith Fighter from our site.
Faith Fighter was meant to be a game against intolerance that used over the top irony and a cartoonish style to express the instrumental use of religions.
Faith Fighter depicted in a mildly politically incorrect way all the major religions as a response to the one-way islamophobic satire of the Danish Mohammad cartoons.
If a established organization didn't understand the irony and the message of the game and is claiming it is inciting intolerance, we simply failed.
We knew that this was a risky operation and we acknowledge our failure as communicators.
Taking down the game from this website is a symbolic act: copies and documentation of Faith Fighter can be found all over the Internet. Hopefully this will help people to make their judgments by examining the actual work and not the sensationalist accounts spread by mass media.
In few hours this statement generated a way more heated reactions than the release of the game. We are not "bowing to the foundamentalists", we have no sympathy for any religion but we are aware that muslims are victim of widespread racism in the western world. This islamofobia is functional to the imperial interests in Middle East and all over the world. We just want to make clear that the game was not intended to contribute to the media-assisted narrative "islamic world vs freedom of speech".
Molleindustria's Tuesday decision to remove "Faith Fighter" from its website, as noted by the update in its statement, is being met by some as "bowing to the foundamentalists. (sic)" However, included with the statement are links to other sites that still host the game.
Prior to the OIC's outcry, as mentioned in both statements, Metro UK ran a story Monday aggregating critical views from a number of other religious leaders representing each respective faith that the game depicts. From Metro UK:
'This game is going out of its way to upset people and I think it should be taken off the internet,' said Douglas Miller, pastor of the Link Church in Birmingham.
... A spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organisations said: 'In the current climate, this game can only create fear about religion. 'Having images depicting Muhammad in this way is also very offensive to our faith.'
Brian Appleyard, former chairman of the Buddhist Society, called the game an 'offensive futile project'.
Following the Metro UK story, Molleindustria's initial posturing was defiant, and the site issued the following statement, which has since been replaced with the statement declaring the game's removal:
The clash between the OIC and Molleindustria is yet another installment in what Molleindustria's updated statement labels the "media-assisted narrative 'islamic world vs freedom of speech.'"(sic)
In fact, in early 2006, following the September 30, 2005 publication of the notorious Dutch Muhammad cartoons in Jyllands-Posten, the OIC called for the UN Human Rights Council Charter to be amended to say: "freedom of speech is incompatible with defamation of religions and prophets," according to Jeanne Favret-Saada. This amendment was not adopted, but later that year the UN General Assembly did go so far as to recommend that all states "undertake combating 'defamation of religions,'" Favret-Saada writes.
This UN battle from three years ago was resurgent this year, according to the Independent's Johann Hari, who in a January 2009 column decried recent efforts by Islamic states to redefine the role of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights so that it would focus more on religious protection than on freedom of speech.
Following Hari's column, riots erupted in India when the English-language daily The Statesman republished Hari's piece. The editor and publisher of the publication were arrested for "hurting the religious feelings" of Muslims, the BBC reports.
The subject of the controversial column, the effort to redefine the role of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, was further cemented in a March 11, 2009 UN proposal issued and circulated by Pakistan that would criminalize the "defamation of Islam," according to UN Watch, a subsidiary of the American Jewish Committee.
The "defamation of religion" ban was intended to be added into the official declaration of the Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva last week, but was eventually shelved and replaced with a more targeted ban on speech that, "constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence," after the Obama administration refused to attend because of the original language, according to the Jewish daily Forward. And though the Obama administration opted out of attending anyway, the new language was retained in this year's declaration [PDF].
The Dutch Muhammad cartoons were, provocatively reprinted and put up for sale earlier this month. And considering this week's outcry towards Molleindustria, and the subsequent removal of "Faith Fighter" from its website, it would seem as though the freedom of speech versus defamation of religion battle is far from over.