Monday, November 10, 2008

Recall This!

Now that I have children of my own I hardly have the spare time to blog let alone play video games (although I set aside some time in the wee early hours for the Wii Fit). I recently found out that Sony is again in trouble with another religious group over the musical content of their, now delayed, new game Little Big Planet. Their previous snafu was over a virtual representation of the Manchester Cathedral of England in their 2006 game Resistance: The Fall of Man. You can read about it Here.

This time it's about a snippet of song lyrics that contain Koranic verses found within Little Big Planet. Just google Little Big Planet Muslim lyrics and you'll find serveral articles. But in a nutshell concerned muslim gamers notified Sony that it might be offensive to some members of their religion. That so far sounds reasonable if it were offensive in the first place. Now I understand the reason for censorship and why some people find that they have to be "politically correct" but it's kind of, no, IS ridiculous when Sony decided to pull the game off the shelves so they can remove the offensive content.

Here are some reactions from two influential members of the U.S. Muslim community.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Personally, I find the song to be beautiful and touching. But I respect the views of those who have taken offense and I appreciate that Sony has as well. To be fair, I believe Sony is under no obligation to recall the game given that the song was not of their own making, but that of a devout Muslim who allowed them to use it. However, I think they made an admirable decision to respect the sensitivities of their customers who were offended, which is a wise decision from both a marketing and community relations perspective.

Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), sees nothing admirable or wise in Sony's action. Instead, he warns Muslims not to expect others to bow to their every concern and businesses not to cave. Western liberties are at stake here:

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 But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the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.

I completely agree with Mr. Jasser. If ANYONE got offended with ANYTHING then anyone can get anything pulled off the shelf for any reason. If I don't believe in aliens and I find it offensive that a video game company is coming out with a new game featuring aliens then I can get that game pulled from the shelves, right?

Alright, now to the heart of the issue. There are two hot button issues that most people take great care when it comes up in a conversation: politics and religion. Without going into politics, the issue here is about the mixing of music with verses from the Koran. It's not the fact that music is inherently evil (that i'm aware of) to muslims but that to them the Koran IS the holy word of God and you don't mix something holy with something potentially unholy. Now I could go on and on about Koran Reciters (who kind of sing the Koran) and the various rulings and views on music within Islam but I'll just stop there and get to the point.

Mr. Jasser said it best, "The demand to censor, as well as Sony's willingness to bend at the request, is counterproductive to freedom of speech." There is no one voice that speaks for all muslims but if certain countries want to ban the game, then let them. But there is no reason to delay a product just because it might offend someone. If it is truely offensive then it shouldn't even make it to mass production. But of course if for some reason something does get through it's interesting to see how anyone may have missed it.

When I worked at Wally World my fellow associates and I had a good laugh about these "oddly shaped straws" for a good two weeks before they got recalled. A product must go through several stages and be given an "ok" stamp before being mass produced. I just want to know what the people who designed and gave approval to release this straw were thinking AND what they thought it looked like to them. A Rocket ship? I know I wouldn't want my kids using these straws even though they might be too young to connect the dots. Now here is a very, very good reason to issue a recall.

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