However, there is now a new development, which will take what is essentially a religious notion and promote it on mainstream Kids' TV. Hasbro is a toy manufacturer associated with manufacturing dolls and toys related to media products - Star Wars characters, My Little Pony. Hasbro has recently linked up with the Discovery Channel to create a new network that will be premiering soon, operating as a TV network and web platform. Brian Goldner, Hasbro's President and CEO, said:
"We believe the time is right for Hasbro to take the next step into television through our partnership with Discovery Communications. David Zaslav and his talented team have the experience, track record and ambition necessary to make this joint venture a long-term success as we build this network. We look forward to creating fun, stimulating and educational content that will allow us to deliver all-new brand experiences to the young and 'young at heart' - anywhere and anytime they want."
The new media outlet, called The Hub, will officially start airing on October 11, with veteran broadcaster Margaret Loesch running the schedule. And on the schedule of The Hub network will be an animated series called "The 99", which will bring to life the Islamic cartoon superheroes. This is the first time that I am aware of where a religious cartoon series has been broadcast and aimed at the general viewing public.
South Park is hardly a children's cartoon show, but its incitement of rage from the Islamic world has set a precedent in broadcasting. In July 2001, the 68th show depicted Mohammed the prophet as a super-hero, joining forces with Buddha, Moses and others to fight evil, in an episode entitled "Super Best Friends." When this episode was broadcast, there was no uproar. Subsequent depictions of Mohammed in South Park have led to deliberate censorship by Comedy Central, and angry reactions from Muslims. Most recently , when Mohammed was depicted, hidden inside a bear suit, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were subjected to death threats.
In such a climate, where adults in America and the West cannot be allowed to see Islam's main character in cartoon form, it seems to be in decidedly poor taste to have superhero avatars of Allah depicted for children. It seems like indoctrination, an indoctrination made more blatant by Obama's totally inappropriate promotion of The Ninety-Nine.
Even in Islamic terms, to depict attributes of Allah in human form is a form of blasphemy. Purists of Islam would affirm that any images of any human being are forbidden, quoting Hadiths such as the following by Bukhari:
Volume 5, Book 58, Number 213:
Um Habiba and Um Salama mentioned a church they had seen in Ethiopia and in the church there were pictures. When they told the Prophet of this, he said, "Those people are such that if a pious man amongst them died, they build a place of worship over his grave and paint these pictures in it. Those people will be Allah's worst creatures on the Day of Resurrection."
Even depictions of animals were forbidden by the prophet, according to Bukhari's accounts:
Volume 8, Book 73, Number 130:
The Prophet entered upon me while there was a curtain having pictures (of animals) in the house. His face got red with anger, and then he got hold of the curtain and tore it into pieces. The Prophet said, "Such people as paint these pictures will receive the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection."
Similar prohibitions are found in the Sahih Hadith anthology of Muslim, here and here. Mohammed had said: "All the painters who make pictures would be in the fire of Hell. The soul will be breathed in every picture prepared by him and it shall punish him in the Hell."
The scholar Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 - 1328), whose ideas inspired the intolerant Saudi Arabian ideology of Wahhabism, was jailed for describing Allah in terms of anthropomorphism, stating that he had a "foot", "hand", "face" and so on.
In Kuwait, the Ninety-Nine has been seen as educational and instructional, and has not been criticised. But it does seem strange that Islam - dressed up in the form of cartoon superhero characters - should be presented on the screen.
Are we going to see ass-kicking Christian superhero nuns, called Faith, Hope and Charity, whooping sinner's butts and sending Satan into Hell? It is doubtful.
This disparity is one of the worst things affecting society at present. Christianity and Judaism do not get featured in mainstream media, but Islam is not only depicted in all strands of the media, it is being promoted by a president who seems to have forgotten what he swore to uphold when he entered office.
If Obama can promote Islam, he should also publicly promote Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and every other faith. The fact that he does not is a very worrying development in politics. The separation of church (and mosque, synagogue, gudwara and ashram) and state has been a guiding factor of American political life since the time of Jefferson. To promote one faith above another is shameful. The president's official endorsement of The Ninety-Nine has legitimized it and given it enough impetus to be broadcast to the masses.
There are some Christian movie-makers and animators, whose work goes out on cable or on DVD. Would these people's work be endorsed by the president? Would their handiwork be broadcast in Kuwait?
Everyone is equal under the law. The separation of Church and State was a principle designed to ensure that peoples of all faiths were similarly treated as equals under the law. There is too much bias in America and the West, where Islam can be promoted, but it can never be criticized. This breaks the contract that was established more than two hundred years ago - in the First Amendment - to protect everyone's religious rights.
The doctrines and considerations of the Founding Fathers were written down after great debates and lengthy consultation. They have lasted for so long because they have proved the worth of their meaning and purpose. After only two years, one individual seems to think he can dispense with two hundred years of historical precedent. Such political hubris is usually followed by electoral nemesis.