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Saudi bans Pokemon

Pokemon game has been criticised in several countries
Pokemon game has been criticised in several countries  

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Pokemon games and cards have been banned under an Islamic edict issued by Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority.

The fatwa by Saudi Arabia's Higher Committee for Scientific Research and Islamic Law said Pokemon "possessed the minds" of Saudi children, promoted Zionism and involved gambling which is banned in Islam.

The edict stated that the video game and cards featuring the Pokemon characters have symbols including "the Star of David, which everyone knows is connected to international Zionism and is Israel's national emblem."

A Nintendo spokesperson in Tokyo on Monday has denied that religious symbols are depicted on Pokemon items and said Nintendo did not design them with religious symbols in mind.

Pokemon cards typically have a brightly coloured picture of a character along with geometric symbols corresponding to the fanciful powers it possesses.

The Pokemon phenomenon originated in Japan three years ago as a video game. It quickly expanded in cartoons, comic books and trading cards, becoming a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is enormously popular around the world.

The edict alleges that Pokemon "has possessed the minds of a large chunk of our students, captivated their hearts and become their preoccupation, (they) spend all their money to buy the cards and compete with each other to win more."

The game has been criticised in several countries, with a Christian church in Mexico calling it "demonic" and organisations in Slovakia saying television shows based on the game are detrimental to children.

In Turkey the series caused a public scandal last year after two children jumped off their balconies apparently to imitate Pokemon characters with special powers. Both children survived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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