‘Pokémon GO’ Not Welcome In Saudi Arabia, Banned As A Sinful Game

Pokémon GO is a global hit since its release, and everyone in the world is enchanted. However, clerics banned the game and labeled it as anti-Islam. Reportedly, the religious edict (fatwa) against Pokémon GO is the renewal of an existing ban on the Pokemon Trading Card Game and other video games before they adapted into the augmented reality game.

Seemingly, the Middle East is getting bugged by the Pokémon effect, and political and religious authorities are voicing concerns.

According to the Arab News, “The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars, on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, has explicitly renewed the fatwa of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas banning the controversial [Pokémon GO] mobile game.”


Clerics renewed the 16-year-old fatwa (No. 21,758), which labels the original Japanese game as a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.

Pokémon GO is awaiting a worldwide release by Niantic Labs and the Pokémon Company. However, it is already a craze among gamers in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and many people have already downloaded the app through unofficial means, say reports.

As reported by the Inquisitr, Pokémon GO has become one of the most successful mobile games of all time. The game allows players to capture, train, and encounter virtual creatures, but it forces users to go out into the real world to try to catch Pokémon characters that appear on-screen.


Within a few days of the app’s launch on July 6, Nintendo witnessed a lavish rise in its share prices.

Reports of some gamers even “catching” imaginary characters from the Pokémon series in mosques and other religious establishments speaks about its phenomenal popularity.


The Saudi fatwa comes weeks after Kuwait’s Interior Ministry warned Pokémon fanatics to avoid fiddling with the augmented reality video game at mosques, shopping centers, malls, and oil installations. Egypt has also passed similar religious edicts against Pokémon GO citing security reasons, according to USA Today.

USA Today quoted Abbas Shuman, the deputy head of Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s top Islamic institution.

“This game [Pokémon GO] makes people look like drunkards in the streets and on the roads while their eyes are glued to the mobile screens.”

The Saudi Pokémon fatwa cited a number of reasons under Islamic laws that justify the ban. Reportedly, Saudi clerics believe the mobile game has elements of polytheism, which is forbidden in Islam. The game’s alleged promotion of natural evolution through its animated monster character’s “evolved” stages, including Christian and Shinto religious iconography, are the many reasons why Pokémon is not welcome in Saudi Arabia.

According to Fortune, the news of the ban came after reports of three Saudis arrested for playing Pokémon GO on their smartphones at King Abdullah airport, Jeddah. The Saudi men, in their mid-20s, were reportedly taking pictures with their smartphone cameras in the restricted area of the airport.


Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country where Pokémon GO lovers have invited trouble for playing where they shouldn’t.

“On Tuesday, Indonesian police said they had arrested a French player for wandering onto a military complex in Cirebon,” Fortune reported.

Since the launch of Pokémon GO this month for iPhone and Android devices, it has reportedly surpassed Facebook and Snapchat for the amount of time spent on the app. As reported by the Inquisitr, the game has already triggered data security and safety concerns in the U.S. and other parts of the globe.

While the Pokémon GO craze engulfs the globe, Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ensure its citizens don’t partake in the “sinful” game. Do you think Middle Eastern conservative Muslims would be able to reconcile Pokémon’s appeal with its apparent violations of Islamic law?

[Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images]