A comic series depicting superheroes based on characteristics of Allah is reportedly on its way to British screens this year.
The cartoons, named The 99 after the characteristics of Allah, were launched in 2006 as a comic book.
Now an animated series is being produced by Endemol, the Dutch company that made the reality TV show, Big Brother.
The creator of The 99 series is Dr Naif al-Mutawa, a former psychologist who explained he wanted to take Islam away from its militant portrayal after the September 11th attacks.
In a letter to his sons, Dr al-Mutawa wrote: “Khalid, you were born in New York City, shortly after 9/11. I had already made a decision that I needed to find a way to take back Islam from its hostage takers, but I did not known how.
“The answer was staring me in the face. It was a simple, and as difficult, as the multiplication of 9 by 11: 99.
“I uncapped my pen to create a concept that could be popular in the East and the West.
“I would go back to the very sources from which others took violent and hateful messages and offer messages of tolerance and peace in their place. I would give my heroes a Trojan horse in the form of The 99.”
The cast of the comic books include Jabbar, a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type figure and Darr the Afflicter, a paraplegic American who can manipulate nerve endings with his mind to trigger pain.
More characters are being revealed as each comic book is released, but there will never be 99 characters because it is forbidden to depict all of Allah’s attributes.
Dr al-Mutawa continued: “I told the writers of the animation that only when Jewish kids think that The 99 characters are Jewish, and Christian kids think they’re Christian, and Muslim kids think they’re Muslim, and Hindu kids think they’re Hindu, that I will consider my vision as having been fully executed.”
The comic book series is illustrated and scripted by former comic book writers and artists whose credits include X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman and Power Rangers.
In 2008, Forbes named The 99 as one of the top 20 global brands “sweeping the world”.
Named the 99, as each possesses one of Allah’s 99 attributes, the characters include a burka-clad woman named Batina the Hidden and a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type man named Jabbar the Powerful.
They have proved a hit from Morocco to Indonesia and were recently named as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the world by Forbes magazine.
Now they are being brought to British television by Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, with a mission to instill Islamic values in children across all faiths.
Until now, the superhero market has been dominated by the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Superman who have typically limited their crime-fighting abilities to America and the Western world.
They were created by Dr Naif al-Mutawa, a clinical psychologist from Kuwait, who felt Muslim children needed a new set of heroes to look up to, to counter jihadist role models.
“It hit me that the stories I was hearing were from men who grew up believing that their leader, Saddam, was a hero, a role model–only to one day be tortured by him,” he told The Times. “I decided the Arab world needed better role models.”
However, despite being called the 99, there will never be a full cast of 99 superheroes since it is forbidden to depict all Allah’s attributes
Dr al-Mutawa hopes the cartoons will have a universal appeal.
He said: “It is based on attributes such as generosity and mercy. These are not things that Islam has a monopoly over.”