Saudi Arabia denies it has extended fatwa to Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go sweeps the Middle East
Pokemon Go sweeps the Middle East

Saudi Arabia denied Thursday that its top clerical body has revived a fatwa, or religious ruling, against Pokemon Go.

"No religious fatwa came from the council for senior scholars in Saudi regarding the Pokemon Go game," the Saudi government said in a statement.

Pokemon Go is not yet officially available in Saudi Arabia, but players have found ways to download it anyway.

An anti-Pokemon decree first issued 15 years ago, Fatwa no. 21758, says the Pokemon game promotes harmful ideas like polytheism and evolution.

Saudi media reported this week that the clerics had revived that fatwa in response to questions about Pokemon Go. The anti-Pokemon fatwa also appeared atop a list of fatwas on the clerics' website.

The Pokemon Go smartphone phenomenon is based on the 1990s game. But it adds to the fun with augmented reality technology, which allows players to explore their real-life neighborhoods, and to superimpose virtual creatures on the real world.

Related: Middle East grapples with Pokemon Go

In the game, Pokemon can evolve over time, becoming stronger. The council argues that the feature promotes the scientific theory of evolution, which has been rejected by religious authorities and is not widely taught in Saudi schools.

The scholars also argue that the game includes symbols of "deviant" organizations and other faiths including Japan's Shinto religion.

Related: Pokemon Go players unwelcome at Holocaust museum

Other countries have voiced concerns about the game, warning players to steer clear of sensitive areas and military bases.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to add Saudi Arabia's denial that its top clerical body had extended the fatwa to PokemonGo.

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