The events of September 11th, 2001, changed the image of Islam for many in the world. The religion that, most Muslims argue, is one of peace came to be seen by many as inherently violent and backwards. Naif al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti psychologist with several degrees from American universities, wanted to counter this image, one he saw as confusing Islam as a religion with the extremism of a few of its followers.
As reported recently in an interview with The Atlantic, al-Mutawa responded in an unexpected way—by creating a comic book series. The series, called The 99, includes 99 comic book characters whose superpowers represent the 99 characteristics of Allah in Islam, such as wisdom, healing, and love. Al-Mutawa describes the series as “inspired by Islam,” rather than Islamic:
I am not proselytizing…the comic book series is supposed to be for everybody irrespective of their religion…That being said, the comics are inspired by Islam in the sense that the positive values that are in them—generosity and mercy and wisdom—these are very positive things that are within Islam and every religion…This is what I am trying to bring out, values that I have in my culture and my heritage and my religion that I share with the rest of humanity.
The comic books will soon be made available for purchase in America. Will they succeed in changing the average American’s view of Islam? Considering the increasing popularity of comic book characters, particularly in movie franchises such as Iron Man, X-Men, Batman, and Spiderman, a lot depends on how readers take to the books. But if they do, the sky could be the limit.
The Atlantic‘s interview with al-Mutawa, as well as a slide show of some of the comic book characters, is available here.