Why Pokémon Go Became Restricted in Saudi Arabia

In 2016, Saudi Arabia found itself at the center of a digital storm as it reinvoked a religious decree from 2001, effectively banning Pokémon and its virtual realm. The cause? The emergence of the smartphone sensation, Pokémon Go. Rooted in a 1996 Nintendo game, this augmented-reality marvel took the globe by storm, prompting players to traverse the real world in a quest for virtual creatures.

A Clash of Worlds: Pokémon Go’s Unofficial Saudi Arabian Odyssey

Despite not being officially available in Saudi Arabia, the illicit download and play of Pokémon Go gripped the nation. The game’s virtual “pocket monsters” roamed Saudi streets, leading the kingdom’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta to address the swelling public curiosity.

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The Revival: Reissuing the 2001 Edict

In response to the fervor surrounding the game, the committee took to its website, reissuing a 2001 edict that had faded into obscurity. This edict, penned 15 years prior, highlighted concerns aligning the game with principles contrary to Islamic teachings. The edict decried the game’s semblance to gambling and its perceived nod to Charles Darwin’s evolution theory, an idea discordant with Islamic faith.

Symbols and Beliefs: Unveiling Incompatibilities

The revived edict pointedly mentioned that certain game cards bore symbols associated with what it labeled as “deviant” religions and organizations. Such symbols included those of international Zionism, Christianity, freemasonry, and Japan’s Shinto religion. These elements, the edict argued, rendered the game un-Islamic due to their implication of polytheism.

The Pokémon Go Paradox: Not Just a Saudi Struggle

Saudi Arabia was not alone in its apprehensions. Across the world, concerns emerged about the repercussions of Pokémon Go’s popularity. The game’s linkage to crimes, traffic infringements, and complaints on a global scale had led various countries to implement bans or restrictions.

Contemplating the Ban: An Intersection of Faith and Culture

The reinstatement of the Pokémon ban in Saudi Arabia sparked discussions on the interplay between faith and entertainment. While Pokémon Go enthralled players worldwide, it simultaneously posed questions about its compatibility with diverse cultural and religious contexts.

Conclusion: Where Worlds Collide

The resurfacing of the 2001 ban on Pokémon in Saudi Arabia was a reflection of apprehensions surrounding the game’s conformity with Islamic tenets. The edict’s concerns ranged from gambling parallels to evolutionary underpinnings, and from symbols of disparate beliefs to the specter of polytheism. Amidst a global backdrop of controversies, bans, and discussions, Pokémon Go stood as a poignant example of the complexities that arise when modern entertainment encounters age-old beliefs.

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