Of Men and Mice

September 24, 2008



In case you have not heard yet, Sheikh Mohamed al-Munajid (a Saudi cleric, who is said to be from a Levant origin) has labelled mice as ‘agents of Satan’, calling for the extermination of them all. He has also made it clear that this includes famous cartoon mice, such as Mickey Mouse and Jerry (of the popular cartoon series ‘Tom and Jerry’) in particular. 


I assume this should call for an urgent meeting of ‘Rodents Without Borders’ and the CMCA (Cartoon Mice Characters Association), had they both existed, to discuss recent threats against fellow members, Mickey and Jerry.

I personally think that in light of these recent threats, all ‘mouse shaped cartoon characters’ should be forced to have supernatural powers for the purpose for self defense; following the ‘Mighty Mouse’ and ‘Danger Mouse’ models.  


I am of course blabbering because there isn’t much one could say regarding this situation.


Even the Shiekh’s justification (that mice are dirty creatures and that by creating popular cartoon characters based on them, kids might grow up liking this unclean animal) is ridiculous.


I think one of the best reactions was that of many American news anchors, who couldn’t help laughing at the matter. You could watch a few clips here http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=qO3TqDS1XHE (unfortunately, another MEMRI instant hit).


Some relief came to me when a number of Arab ‘liberal’ writers and an Egyptian Muslim scholar ridiculed his views.   

AFP reported today that Suad Saleh, a woman preacher who hosts a popular television programme on fatwas, or religious edicts, told the English-language daily Egyptian Gazette that Munajid’s ruling “tarnishes Islam’s image.”

“An edict should be based on knowledge, logic and reason,” she said. “Yes, mice should be killed when seen according to Islam’s teachings. But it is illogical to deal with a cartoon character as a live mouse and kill it.” (my reaction: …you don’t say!!)

As much as it was painful to see someone who is supposed to be a respectful member of the clergy being mocked, I can’t find any sympathy in me towards al-Munajid.


You see, one must understand how clerics are regarded in most Muslim societies, they have great influence and most of the time, and their opinions are not questionable. (As the case was during the show which al-Munajid was a guest on when he said what he said, this was on al-Majd TV by the way, an Islamic station that many regard as fundementalist).


What is interesting is that earlier this month, another Saudi cleric said owners of satellite television channels that broadcast “immoral” content deserved to die.

The point is, when you have so much authority over people, you must be very careful regarding what you say…. It also goes without saying that when wearing a clergy robe, you ought to be a role model of tolerance, love and peace. (almost a no-brainer, isn’t it?)

Many people might not know this, but back in 2005… the ‘big thing’ in the Arab world was reality television shows, such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Star Academy’ and the Arab version of ‘Pop Idol’ came under attack for their attempts to ‘strip away the virtue of Arab youth’.


Star Academy in particular was dubbed “Academiat Al Shaytan” (Satan’s Academy).


Why… you may ask? Well, so that it would be named after its founders, the “evil devils in our world” as one Islamic ‘awareness recording’ suggests.


And who may that recording be made by… why, it was non-other than Shiekh al-Munajed himself !  


Honestly, this is not a desperate attempt to market my previous articles, but you must read the full story I wrote back then http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=5&id=344  to understand the impact clerics could have on the youth.


One teenager actually told me he was s convinced that “Star Academy” is “part of a huge plot planned many years ago to strip away all virtue from the Arab youth”. The 18-year-old proceeds to explain that this scheme is also “proven” in a website, where he read that it is “part of Zionist plan which goes back to the year 1935”.


Another Shiekh, Ali Al Shahrani, produced a similar recording called ‘SARS Academy’, in which he uses a long list of insults that are commonly used against prostitutes and homosexuals to describe the way he feels about participants in reality shows.


“If some people don’t like these words, perhaps it is because they haven’t heard them before… or maybe they are living on a different planet,” the Shiekh told me back then.


What can I say? I for one would like to be living on that different planet, where my kids could watch Mickey, Minnie and Speedy Gonzales without feeling guilty… But mostly a planet where men don’t pick on mice (especially while ignoring extremists, occupying forces, corruption and poverty to name a few issues they could chew on).



 cover of ‘Satan’s Academy’ – Al Munajed’s 2005 recording. (asharq al awsat photo)