Gulf news Pokemon addicts anger UAE mosque leaders

Pokemon addicts anger UAE mosque leaders

This content was originally posted in 7DAYS UAE website at: Pokemon addicts anger UAE mosque leaders

Pokémon GoLONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15: A player's phone is decorated with Pokemon stickers as he plays Pokemon Go, a mobile game that has become a global phenomenon, the day after it's UK release on July 15, 2016 in London, England. The app lets players roam using their phone's GPS location data and catch Pokemon to train and battle.The game has added millions to the value of Nintendo, which part-owns the franchise. (Photo by Olivia Harris/Getty Images)Obsessed gamers say grounds are filled with virtual creatures

Religious scholars have hit out at Pokemon Go users after groups of players were spotted catching the digital characters in and around places of worship.

Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael, the Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs And Charitable Activities Department in Dubai, was among those to urge players to be respectful.

“Technology is an important tool,” he told 7DAYS.

“However, playing Pokemon Go in a mosque is extremely inappropriate.”

Scholars at a mosque on Ajman Corniche said that players are seen daily in front of the building, in the car park and, on occasion, inside the mosque itself. One scholar said young “addicts” are seen performing the distinctive forward swipe leading to a “huge parking problem” at the mosque.

Millions of users have been drawn to the game, which involves players catching digital avatars on their phones. It uses a GPS system and the phone’s camera to allow users to spot the Pokemon in the street in real-time.

The game’s mechanics mean the Pokemon are automatically located in open public places, including malls, hospitals, hotels and places of worship, meaning users flock there to catch them or fill up on ammunition.

Dr Ali Mashael, the Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department Dubai Dr Ali Mashael, the Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department Dubai

Abduallah Al Mehairi, a scholar at the mosque on Ajman corniche, told 7DAYS that he has challenged a number of young people in and around the main building.

He said: “The Pokemon Go phenomenon caused a huge parking problem in our mosque. Our mosque door is always open for worship, however, Pokemon addicts are invading it.

RELATED: Abu Dhabi Police warn Pokemon Go players

“I have not used this game yet. Nevertheless, I see that it causes many problems. Members of the public who do not need to enter the mosque for worship shouldn’t be hanging around the parking or any other place in the mosque.

“They are taking places of the people who need a parking space to perform prayer attend a religious lesson.”

Grand Mufti Mashael added: “It doesn’t serve any purpose. I believe it distracts people from many things, including education, work, performing a religious duty or even spending a precious time with the family.”

Pokemon-Go‘Pokemon Go brings people together’

A spokesman for American firm Niantic, which developed Pokemon Go, told 7DAYS that any member of the public can file a request to have a building removed from the game.

He added: “We invite any authorised person to contact us about the inclusion of their premises in Pokemon GO through our support website at

“We will take relevant steps at that point based on the nature of the inquiry.”

Abu Dhabi Police last week said some young players are going “too far” away from their homes when playing the game. They also said players can “easily enter private residences, government installations or enter the streets as they play the game”, risking legal action.

Some Pokemon Go users say they are being unfairly taken to task for playing a game they enjoy, while others say they will steer clear of holy places now for fear of causing offence.

7DAYS spoke to users about attitudes towards the game following complaints from religious leaders about people playing Pokemon Go in and outside mosques.

Most said they would not enter a mosque, but as a public place it was inevitable the game would feature characters there.

Majd Dhweji, 22, a Syrian expat studying at University of Dubai, said: “I don’t think the game is harmful at all. “I’ve even made friends with complete strangers because of this. I think it brings people together.”

He added: “Pokestops are usually predetermined landmarks. Sometimes the spot is close by a mosque. I don’t really think it harms the people in the mosque… we are not literally inside the mosque.”

Aysha Gharatkar, 27, an Indian interior designer, found herself playing outside a mosque last week and only realised later that she should steer clear.

She said: “But I felt guilty afterwards and decided to quit the game. Now I am way more concerned with my job and family.”

Another user, Hanane LK, 25, an Algerian expat, agreed with scholars that users should stay away from holy places.

She said: “Pokemon Go is a nostalgic game and that’s why I enjoy it very much, however, catching near a mosque or inside is extremely disrespectful.”

It is not just mosques that have come across unwanted visitors recently. Jumana Mohammed, 34, a Lebanese housewife in Ras Al Khaimah, has caught players in her gated compound.

She said: “They enter from the main gate and then I find them moving around the yard in search of the game’s characters. My husband told me our house is a Pokestop.

“Last time I yelled at them and threatened to call the police. Now I close the main gate.”


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