MUSLIMS FIGHTING EVIL
March 5, 2007 issue - Until she was kidnapped, Dana Ibrahim was an average 18-year-old living in the United Arab Emirates, attending university and hanging out with her friends. Then she was thrown into a dark hole in the earth and held hostage. Burrowing through the dirt to escape, she fell upon a box containing a precious gemstone. But this was not just any jewel; it was one of 99 magical Noor Stones that contain the light of ancient wisdom and give those who possess them superpowers never before seen. Dana's stone gave her the ability to see the light of truth in others. By learning to tame its power, Dana becomes Noora-the light to overcome darkness.
Sound like a typical comic book? It is-except that Dana's character is part of the first graphic-novel series starring superheroes gifted with Muslim traits and virtues. "The 99" tells the story of 99 heroes scattered throughout the world, each of whom holds one of the 99 attributes Muslims assign to Allah. Noora "the Light" must unite with her fellow superheroes-including Jami "the Assembler," Jabbar "the Powerful" and Bari "the Healer"-to fight evil. The central struggle is between Dr. Ramzi (the good guy) and Rughal (the villain), who have competing views about the right way to channel the incredible powers of the 99.
Naif Al-Mutawa, the fast-talking Kuwaiti who launched "The 99" in the Arab world last summer and plans to bring it to the United States this spring, seems to be treading on dangerous ground. Last year the publication of Danish cartoons depicting provocative images of the Prophet Muhammad ignited outbursts of violent anger in the Muslim world. But Al-Mutawa insists he is careful on several points. The comics don't show any image purporting to be Allah or Muhammad (though in traditional Islam, representing any human being is considered irreligious and thus taboo). More important, they are praising Islamic virtues, not parodying the faith as the Danish cartoons did. "'The 99' captures what is happening in this part of the world," says Al-Mutawa. Though the characters are not exactly religious, their power "is just like religion; it can be used for good or for bad." The problem with the villains, who are also Muslim, says Al-Mutawa, is not their faith but how they use it.