Saudi Arabia bans Pokemon GO for religious reasons

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Saudi men play with the Pokemon Go application on their mobiles in the capital Riyadh on July 17, 2016. (PHOTO: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has banned Pokemon Go, saying the game is un-Islamic.

The country’s top clerical body has revived a fatwa, or religious ruling, against Pokemon, saying the craze promotes harmful ideas like polytheism and evolution.

The anti-Pokemon decree was first issued 15 years ago. But clerics extended it to cover Pokemon Go this week after receiving a number of questions about the game from believers.

The smartphone phenomenon is based on the 90s game. But it adds to the fun with augmented reality technology, which allows players to explore their real-life neighborhoods, and to superimpose virtual creatures on the real world.

In the game, Pokemon can evolve over time, becoming stronger. The council argues that the feature promotes the scientific theory of evolution, which has been rejected by religious authorities and is not widely taught in Saudi schools.

The scholars also argue that the game includes symbols of “deviant” organizations and other faiths including Japan’s Shinto religion.

The game is not yet officially available in Saudi Arabia, but players have found ways to download it anyway.

In the ruling, the clerics refer to Pokemon as “types of insects” and said the game has spread “like wildfire in most parts of the world,” leading to “astronomical profits” for Nintendo.

Other countries have voiced concerns about the game, warning players to steer clear of sensitive areas and military bases.

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