It was both ironic and interesting to see how a video game titled 'Faith Fighter', where players control characters that are meant to represent: Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, God and the Hindu god Ganesh and fight in a one-on-one competition, managed to bring followers of different religions and beliefs together in just a matter of days.
The game has caused a lot of controversy ever since the London free morning daily, Metro, published a story last Monday and a poll on its website asking if the game should be banned. I followed this up by an Arabic version of the story for Asharq Al Awsat the very next day.
This resulted in a series of complaints to the developer, most prominently from the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OTIC), which issued a statement expressing its concern calling the game "incendiary" and "offensive to both Muslims and Christians."
The OTIC's statement is said to be the reason behind Molleindustria's decision to remove 'Faith Fighter'.
However, despite many sensational headlines that insisted that the Islamic organization 'forced' Molleindustria to remove the game, the decision was completely a choice by the Italy based company, according to its own website, which doesn't mention anything about 'force', 'threats' or anything else except the mentioned statement.
In addition, it wasn't only Muslims or those who are meant to be representing them (or should I say, us!) that complained about the content of 'Faith Fighter'.
The same Metro story for example quotes spokespersons representing other faiths, such Douglas Miller, pastor of the Link Church in Birmingham (England), who said 'This game is going out of its way to upset people and I think it should be taken off the internet'.
For his part, Brian Appleyard, former chairman of the Buddhist Society in the UK, said that the game was an 'offensive futile project'.
This was followed by harsh criticism on many websites and online religious forums
The game eventually was removed by Molleindustria, which stressed it was 'misunderstood' all long.
I got in touch with the Italy based company, and according to the comments published in my Asharq Al Awsat's story, the game was conceived originally a few years ago as a response to the Danish cartoon (the controversy that outraged the Muslim world in 2005 with the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed).
"We didn't like that one-way Islamophobic satire so we decided to create a satirical game that makes fun of all the religions, because all beliefs can be used to incite hatred," the spokesperson added in an email statement.
Molleindustria refused to apologize to anyone who may have been offended, and insisted this whole issue was all a misunderstanding.
However, it must be fascinating to see that believers of different faiths were united to stop a 'blasphemous' (though virtual) 'Street Fighter II'-style online game, while the very same people probably are continuing to engage in 'mortal combat' in real life!
Well... now that the job is done and the faiths of the world are finally united, somebody might want to check what is up with the freedom of speech lobbyists... they seem to be pretty upset about what has happened.
I guess when it comes to religion vs. freedom of expression... the game will never be 'over'!
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