Why Did Saudi Arabia Ban Pokémon Go?

Saudi clerics see Pokemon Go as anti-Islamic and full of forbidden symbols and ideas (like evolution!), so have renewed their 2001 fatwa on it.

A Saudi person playing Pokemon Go

You better put your plans for hunting Pikachu and doing gym battles on hold if you are in Saudi Arabia. Local clerics have banned Pokémon Go on account of anti-Islamic content. 


The ban came as a renewal of a fatwa (a religious edict) by the General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars. The card-based version of Pokémon was previously banned in 2001, and now that the mobile game has been taking over the world, the clerics felt it important to revisit the ban. 

The main issue is that the game is viewed by the clerics as a form of gambling, a practice forbidden in Saudi Arabia. The game also supports the Theory of Evolution as it allows players to evolve pokemon. This theory is at odds with Islam, according to the clerics. Another issue is that the game features forbidden symbols that refer to the Japanese Shinto religion, Christianity, Freemasonry and “global Zionism”.

The fatwa states that: 

“The symbols and logos of devious religions and organizations are used [including] the six-pointed star: You rarely find a card that does not contain such a star. It is associated with Judaism, the logo and sign of the State of Israel, and the first symbol of the Masonry organizations in the world.”

As reported by Al-Jazeera, the game is also being seen negatively in Egypt, where a leading government official, Hamdi Bakheet, views it as a tool of espionage by foreign agencies:

“Pokémon Go is the latest tool used by spy agencies in the intel war, a cunning despicable app that tries to infiltrate our communities in the most innocent way under the pretext of entertainment. But all they really want is to spy on people and the state.”

Despite such a cool reception by the governments of some countries, the augmented reality game is popular in the Middle East, being played by thousands in Dubai, Kuwait, and Israel.

It still remains to be seen if Pokémon Go will attract the kind of frenzy there that it has generated in places like New York:

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