Music, Perceptions of Muslims and the Little Big Planet Delay

by Guest Contributor Shawna, originally published at Islam On My Side

Recently, the Little Big Planet PS3 release was delayed. This peeved many, including my husband, who had pre-ordered it and eagerly anticipated its arrival. The next day, it came out that the delay was due to the presence of Qur’an verses within one of the songs in the game. The song was written by an Emmy winning Muslim musician who explains that it’s normal in his home country (Mali) to include Qur’an or words of the Prophet (pbuh) in music in order to show the inspiration of Islam. Sony decided to strip the song from the game instead of risking offense. They’ve been through this before with the Catholic church. No need to reenter the arena.

What surprised many was the response by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. On their behalf, M. Zuhdi Jaffer, M.D. released the following in a statement:

“Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted. The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive. But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.

“…We [the AIFD] do not endorse any restriction whatsoever on the release of this videogame but would only ask those with concerns to simply choose not to buy it. We would hope that the producer?s decision not be made in any way out of fear but rather simply based upon freedom of expression and the free market.”

The creators of Little Big Planet stated that they made the decision to remove the song because the game is meant to be for everyone, and if the song’s presence will disenfranchise as many people as it seems might be offended by it’s presence, it should go. From the message boards:

LittleBigPlanet will be remastered in order to remove a track from the game that contained two expressions found in the Qur’an. Whilst shorter expressions from the Qur’an are sometimes used in nasheeds, we are aware that the mixing of musical instruments with recognisable extracts from the Qur’an is offensive to Muslims. Therefore, we have taken immediate action to rectify this. We will confirm a new launch date shortly.

By far, the most interesting aspect of this issue is the glimpse you can get into the world of gaming by reading through the message thread started by the gamer who first brought the Qur’anic quotation to Sony’s attention. Non-Muslim readers are confused as to why the inclusion is considered offensive. There is an attempt to explain, but mostly there is a push to keep from discussing religion within the thread. Commenters mostly express the hope that the game won’t be delayed.

This is not what I’m used to seeing on message boards. Here, for the most part, is a very respectful conversation. One person observed:

I also don’t understand what is so offensive about it. At the end of the day it must be only extremist/hardcore religeous people who could get offended by lyrics in songs of this nature.

Surely extremists from any religion will always find something to complain about in video games, whether it’s violent content, sexual content, swearing etc, etc, etc. There is no point in pandering to them because once you start changing games for little things like this we will all be left just playing pacman, even then there will probably be some obscure Religion that will complain about that! As long as a game is not trying to be deliberately offensive to a Religion, like have you running around headbutting baby Jesus or something, then I don’t see what the problem is

Like any game, surely the answer is simple, if you don’t like it, don’t play it, but stop trying to be spoil sports and going off on missions to prevent other people from playing games just because they don’t fit into your view of life or religious preferences. This is not aimed at the op, just a general observation that whether it’s Religous groups, Politicians, Lawyers, Parental groups etc, there is always someone whinging on about games!

Interestingly, the end concerns of this debate are that 1) players angered over the delay will just create anti-Muslim levels; and 2) the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims will become more pronounced over this issue. So, ultimately, gamers are concerned for the way the reception of the song combined with the delay of the game will affect Muslim-non-Muslim relations.

I think this is a great study of the counter-fear culture that has arisen in response to the last seven years of Islamophobia. It also gives a more well-rounded view of Muslims–there are those that care, those that don’t, and those that ride the line. As for non-Muslims, there are those that are suppotive, those that hate Islam, and those who ride the line.

The game has since been released. I think it’s as fun as people hoped. I know my husband is enjoying it, as are other Muslims around the world.