On January 14, 2015 , creator of THE 99, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, was presented with the 2014 Islamic Economy Award, Media category, by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, at a ceremony in Dubai.
The award recognizes “innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that have contributed to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population.”
In an article subsequently published in The National, Dr. Al-Mutawa reports on interest in THE 99 by game developers, his fight against accusation of heresy in Kuwait (still pending), and his thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and the killings there.
NAIF AL-MUTAWA THREATENED BY ISIS
The jihadist militant group ISIS has pronounced a death sentence for Kuwati-born comic book innovator Naif Al-Mutawa via Twitter, according to the website arabianbusiness.com
Dr. Al-Mutawa, whose groundbreaking comic “THE 99” has sought to give the Muslim community its own superheroes while at the same time fostering a greater, more positive understanding of Islam among non-Muslim readers, is no stranger to criticism.
Though he created THE 99 — whose gaggle of protagonists are each inspired by one of the 99 attributes of Allah as delineated in the Quran — in consultation with Sharia scholars, there have always been fundamentalists within Islam unhappy with the project. Cultural conservatives outside of Islam have been equally critical, unhappy with the comic’s positive portrayal of Muslims, and the positive attention it has been given by most western media.
His creation has also been widely celebrated, though. Since THE 99 debuted in 2006, Al-Mutawa has been listed among the world’s 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center and named, alongside Steve Jobs, as one of the seven most influential designers in the world by Forbes China. He has been singled out by U.S. President Barack Obama at a Summit of Entrepreneurship, presented a Ted Talk about his comic creation, and been profiled on a PBS-aired documentary Wham! Blam! Islam! – while his superheroes have inspired the Middle East’s first theme park, joined forces with Superman, Batman and the Justice League of America in a comics crossover, and starred in two seasons of an animated series broadcast in 70 countries — from Turkey to Tahiti, Ireland to Iraq.
The militant group threatening Al-Mutawa, ISIS, has been noted for it’s enthusiastic use of social media to promote even their most barbaric acts, which include mass executions, mock crucifixions, and beheadings like that of American journalist James Foley.
Al-Mutawa has responded to the threats in an interview with Kuwait’s Al Watan newspaper, saying he plans to take legal action against those calling for his death via social media — adding, in his own tweet: “My work has glorified Islam from the U.S. to China for the past ten years.”
For those interested in learning more about Al Mutawa, his website is www.al-mutawa.com. His TED talk, along with a trailer for the animated series, are below.