The vast Jewish Pok

Is it really Japanese for "There is no God in the universe"?

By Anthony York
Published April 24, 2001 6:33PM (EDT)


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Big buzz

For children in Arab nations, the Pokémon craze is every bit as potent as it is stateside. But the Los Angeles Times reports on the growing backlash to all things Pokémon, attributable to a growing rumor that Pokémon means "There is no God in the universe."

Actually, as almost any 7-year-old can tell you, it is short for "pocket monster," despite other rumors that the word is Japanese for "I am Jew." No amount of corporate debunking has stopped Saudi Arabia's top religious authority, which, according to the Times, "issued an outright ban, saying Pokémon promotes anti-Islamic behavior -- and is suspiciously Jewish. Pokémon was stripped from store shelves, cartons arriving at local ports were turned away, orders were canceled, and schools set up collection points to turn in clothing decorated with Pokémon figures."

The story goes on to report that Pokémon has "become a target of religious leaders throughout the Arab world who charge that the game promotes theories of evolution, encourages gambling and, at its core, is part of a Jewish conspiracy aimed at turning children away from Islam."

The story was met with appropriate derision at the Free Republic. "Well, heck yes! Everyone knows the International Zionist Conspiracy controls Japan!" writes one Freeper.

"The Fifth Protocol of the Elders of Zion: Pika, Pika!" writes another.

Meanwhile, a story in the Gulf Times reports that Nintendo is investigating the possibility that Pokémon is anti-Islamic. "The purpose and foundations of the Pokémon -- collecting, nurturing, trading, friendship and goodwill -- are consistently positive, and have been universally embraced by both children and their parents around the world. The characters and their names are fanciful in nature and nothing in Pokémon's design is intended to be disrespectful of religion or to promote gambling or any political agenda," a Nintendo spokesman says.

This all comes just weeks after a priest in Mexico City held a ritual burning of Pokémon cards, claiming Pokémon cartoons "contain subliminal messages that dispose children to evil ... These monsters have caused physical and mental damage to several young people," Hernandez told the London Daily Telegraph.

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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