Pokémon Appears in Ka`bah, Triggers Debates

MAKKAH – The appearance of Pokémon fictional characters in the Grand Mosque in Makkah has triggered mixed reactions, angering some Muslims who see this as desecrating what they consider the holiest place on earth, while others said it is merely an entertainment game.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Munea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the game is a national security hazard as it aims to uncover secret locations, which is considered treason, Arab News reported on Thursday, July 28.

Users of the Pokémon Go walk around their real-life neighborhoods in search of scores of “pocket monsters”, which emerge superimposed on the phone screen via its camera.

Debates started after the appearance of one of the fighting grounds of Pokémon atop Kaaba, a team from the newspaper said.

Around the new mataf, five players were found playing, and the number is growing.

The games points of gifts and characters appeared in front of the Grand Mosque’s gates.

Critics said the game is a violation of the sanctity of the Grand Mosque in particular and all other mosques, after some of its characters appeared inside mosques. They also accused the game makers of spying on users.

However, others rejected criticism of the game, saying it depends on important locations set by players in their cities.

According to Sheikh Issa Al-Ghaith, Appeals Court Judge and member of the Shoura Council, players who find Pokémon characters in Kaaba can simply hack the game and play it without moving.

“In general, I do not think there is anything ‘haram’ (forbidden) in it as it is,” he added.

Nawaf Shaheen, a gaming expert, also defended Pokemon Go, saying it uses the data bank of another game called Ingress which demands players to point out major features of their cities, including mosques.

The players presented 15 million such locations, of which 5 million are being used by Pokémon Go. Among these locations are holy sites.

Suhaib Khairallah, a technology expert and partner member in Microsoft Saudia, rejected claims it was targeting Muslims, saying Pokémon Go is not available in Saudi or other Arab countries.

Earlier this month, religious authorities in Saudi Arabia denied the renewal of a 15-year-old edict declaring that the Pokémon game was un-Islamic, adding the old fatwa made no mention of the mobile game.

The 2001 fatwa said the Pokémon card game contained elements prohibited by Islamic law such as gambling.

The announcement rejected claims in media reports that scholars extended the old fatwa to cover Pokémon Go this week after receiving a number of questions about the game.

Makkah is preparing currently to receive millions of Muslims from around the world pouring to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj’s ceremonies are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.