Jihad: play the game

Western PC games feature US forces destroying Arab enemies. Now Islam is fighting back. Rebecca Armstrong reports

Grenades - check. Sniper rifle - check. Prayer mat - check. Gamers may be used to saving the day by taking on alien forces from another universe but a new wave of computer games are more concerned with saving the world from non-believers. With titles like Special Force and Under Siege, these games sound similar to military titles like Medal of Honour that regularly top the UK games chart for best-selling titles. Once people start playing though, it's obvious Special Force and Under Siege are very different both in quality and in content to their mainstream rivals.

Hizbollah, a radical Islamic group, spent two years developing Special Force, a PC game designed to compete with games showing Arabs as enemies and Americans as triumphant heroes. Emblazoned across the cover is the invitation to: "Be a partner in the victory. Fight, resist and destroy your enemy in the name of force and victory."

Inspired by actual Hizbollah missions, Special Force takes place during operations on Israeli soldiers. Players have to deal with the same conditions as real Hizbollah fighters, including weather conditions, mines and the number of enemy - Israeli - troops. During training, players can practise their sniping skills on Israeli political and military figures including the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mahmoud Rayya, an official from the Hizbollah bureau, explained at the game's launch that "this game is resisting the Israeli occupation through the media". The game sold thousands of copies in Lebanon in the first two weeks after its release and has gone on to sell at least 10,000 more since.

Under Siege is another pro-Palestinian first person shooter (FPS) and is the sequel to Under Ashes, a game launched in 2001. Under Siege and Under Ashes were developed by Afkar Media, a Damascus-based software company that claims it creates games to educate as well as eliminate. "We believe we had to share responsibility in telling the story behind this conflict and targeting youngsters who depend on video games and movies -which always tell the counter side - to build their world knowledge." Under Ashes went on to sell more than 10,000 copies in the Middle East, as well as being downloaded more than 500,000 times from the company's website.

The game itself is a basic FPS that is billed as suitable for children aged over 13 despite the vast armoury available to players. Radwan Kasmiya, Afkar Media's executive manager, insists the game promotes non-violent methods. "This is not a game about killing. We are attempting to provide a new sort of digital dignity." Despite the warfare, the game does have a self-perception seldom found in mainstream military titles. At the end of one level, there is a tagline that reads: "A real life story or a political propaganda? You have the right to decide."

While these titles aim to redress the balance to a genre dominated by victorious US soldiers defeating Arab enemies, there are other games available that reflect a wider unease with Western thinking. The Ummah Defence titles are fairly innocuous, with robots as enemies and an Islamic universe under threat. In The Maze of Destiny, players battle with an evil wizard named Darlack the Deceiver who has ruined a Muslim utopia where everyone worships Allah by stealing the Book of Allah and imprisoning anyone who knows Allah's teachings. Armed only with their wits and their faith, players must rescue the wise ones from Darlack's dungeons. Challenges include setting bombs to open secret passageways and exploring endless labyrinths. Stylistically, the game is like an early Nintendo title but at its heart is the secular Darlack who plies people with alcohol, drugs, prostitutes and gambling.

All three titles are created by Islamgames, a US-based company that makes titles featuring battles between the defenders of Islam and their opponents. The company explains its stance by stating that: "Video games are a great learning tool, but many games available teach things contrary to the teachings of Islam. By providing an alternative to the mainstream, we can help our childrenin a subtle way learn to identify with Islamic values and teachings."

Islam Fun is a collection of PC mini-games aimed at encouraging children to learn more about Islam. In among Two Bunny Race and Building Blocks - Build a Mosque is the more alarming The Resistance. Gamers play a farmer in South Lebanon who has joined the Islamic Resistance to defend their land and family from invading Zionists. As the game is aimed at five- to seven-year-olds, it seems this particular mini-game is slightly advanced. In defence of their subject matter, Innovative Minds, the company behind Islam Fun, made this statement. "The questions in the game educate children not to fall for the Zionist lie that Zionism, Jewishness and Judaism are synonymous but to understand that Zionism, a racist ideology, has nothing to do with Judaism." There's little danger that hardline titles are going to become bestsellers in the UK, despite their efforts to represent a different ideology. The Video Standards Council, which decides the age and content rating system for UK computer games, does not permit the sale of any game containing material featuring discrimination or incitement to hatred against any ethnic group. Any title that contains material like this is also highly likely to contravene criminal law in the UK and most European countries. But, online boundaries are blurred, as one downloadable game from America, Ethnic Cleansing, proves.

Johnny Minkley, the editor of MCV, the trade magazine for the games industry, isn't convinced that religious games are ever going to compete with mainstream titles. "Video games are becoming a more acceptable mass-market media and a means of expression for more groups. It's natural evolution. Religious games are just one small facet of the games industry."

John Houlihan, the editor of Computer and Videogames, agrees: "There has been a move towards more religious gaming, both in America and the Middle East. However, these games are still very much a minority interest for the industry. Just like with music, the devil has all the best tunes - and all the best games."

Special Force
Developer: Hizbullah Central Internet Bureau

Like Under Siege, Special Force is a more professional title than, say, Islamic fun. Players simulate Hizbollah fighters during military operations against the Israeli army and action is inspired by actual Hizbollah operations. Stalking soldiers, blowing up tanks and full on street battles are the main aspects of the game as players run through a city battleground causing destruction.

( www.specialforce.net)

Islamic Fun
Innovative Minds

A selection of simple games for children that aim to teach them about aspects of Islam. Games like Building Blocks, where players create their own mosque, make up the majority. One stand-out mini-game is The Resistance, where players take the role of a farmer in south Lebanon who has joined Hamas to defend his land and family from the invading Zionists.

( www.inminds.co.uk)

Under Siege
Afkar Media

The sequel to Under Ash, Under Siege is a first-person shooter (FPS) game played from the perspective of a Palestinian. In single-player mode, Under Siege is like many FPS games featuring a specific enemy (in this case, the Israeli army), and gives players an arsenal of weapons with which to do battle. Choose from grenades, rocket launchers, sniper rifles and automatic weapons. Graphically, Under Siege is underdeveloped and very basic, so it won't be rivalling Far Cry in the FPS stakes.

( www.underash.net)

Maze of Destiny
IslamGames

In Maze of Destiny, players must battle the evil wizard Darlack to rescue the teachers of the Koran and re-establish the true worship of Allah. Maze of Destiny is reminiscent of Zelda, with its maze-based 2D levels. Gamers have to negotiate labyrinthine dungeons while avoiding being plied with women or drink. Simple but effective.

( www.islamgames.com)

Ummah Defense 1 & 2
IslamGames

It's the year 2114 and the Earth is united under the banner of Islam. As a member of the Intergalactic Muslim Council, your job is to help co-ordinate Dawa efforts on other planets. But the Flying Evil Robot Armada attacks Earth and it's up to you to save the planet. The first title is a simple, Space Invaders-inspired game, while Ummah 2 is more sophisticated, like an early Mario title.

( www.islamgames.com)

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little