Top clerics in Saudi Arabia have issued a fatwa banning the playing of Pokemon Go as a form of gambling.
The decree was issued by General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta,Arab News reported Wednesday.
The edict actually updates an existing ban on the Pokemon card and video games before they morphed into the mobile phone virtual reality game that has swept the world.
The clerics issued the old fatwa, (No. 21,758), 16 years ago, declaring the original Japanese game a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam,
Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the virtual reality version of the game is the same as the old one.
The game has not been officially released regionally, but is nonetheless popular in the Middle East among gamers who have downloaded the app, the Associated Press reports.
Although Pokemon Go does not involve the winning or losing of money, the fatwa notes that it nonetheless violates the gambling ban.
The fatwa. for example, points out that it involves “gambling practices,” such as two players, in the original Pokemon, competing for cards of different prices, with the stronger side winning the card. If the other player does not want to lose the card, he or she must pay its price.
In Cairo, Al Azhar, Egypt’s top Islamic institution, last week described the Pokemon Go craze as “harmful mania,” Gulf News reports.
“This game makes people look like drunkards in the streets and on the roads while their eyes are glued to the mobile screens,” said Abbas Shuman, deputy head of Al Azhar.
Neighboring Kuwait’s Interior Ministry warned users last week not to play the game at mosques, shopping centers, malls and oil installations, the AP reports. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates warned users to be careful playing mobile games that request a user’s geographical location because it could be used by criminals to lure them.
Pokemon isn’t the only game to draw the ire of the clerics. In January, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh issued a fatwa banning chess, calling it a waste of time and money that creates hatred between players, The New York Times notes. The sheikh referred to the game as a “work of Satan.”
Other prohibitions by the clerics concern polytheism and the belief in and worship of many gods, in addition to the promotion and advertising of disbelief, logos and forbidden images.