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Muslim complaints delay LittleBigPlanet for PlayStation 3

LittleBigPlanet, one of the two most exciting prospects for Sony's PlayStation 3*, has been delayed following complaints from thin-skinned self-appointed moral arbiters from the Muslim community.

Well, sort of. Before we get too Daily Mail here, let's check the facts. Sony was due to release LittleBigPlanet, supposedly the saviour of its tepidly received PlayStation 3 console, on Friday, but Sony has instead chosen to push back the launch and recall copies of the game.

Why? Because one of the songs featured in LittleBigPlanet, "Tapha Niang" by the Malian singer and kora player Toumani Diabaté, contains two lines from the Koran, and Islamic gamers aren't happy. The majority of Muslims consider it offensive for words from the Koran to be mixed with music.

Seems like an open-and-shut case of political correctness gone mad - but look deeper, and things get a bit more complicated. For one thing, the two lines are a bit on the, er, controversial side. A Muslim gamer writing to the website Kotaku explained the problem:

"The words are:

"1- In the 18th second: "kollo nafsin tha'iqatol mawt", literally: 'Every soul shall have the taste of death'.

"2- Almost immediately after, in the 27th second: "kollo man alaiha fan", literally: 'All that is on earth will perish'.

"I asked many of my friends online and offline and they heard the exact same thing that I heard easily when I played that part of the track. Certain Arabic hardcore gaming forums are already discussing this, so we decided to take action by emailing you before this spreads to mainstream attention."

That's right, "Every soul shall have the taste of death". A slightly odd lyrical choice to accompany a light-hearted game in which sack-faced puppets loll around and climb on things. This is basic public relations, people: you don't just stick something foreign in your game and assume nobody will understand it, you check it's, er, kosher. Arrogance is one thing you could call this; wrong-headed cultural imperialism is another.

Wikipedia besieged by Muhammad image protest

On the other hand - and try to bear in mind that, believe it or not, we're not Koranic scholars here in the PC Advisor offices, and so can't comment on the precise contextual justification for these phrases - they probably aren't actually as bad as they sound.

With the nation on high alert for The Islamist Terror Threat, we're pre-programmed to translate the sort of vaguely ominous religious pronouncements our grandparents were used to hearing every Sunday morning into specific warnings of impending Armageddon (if you'll forgive our increasingly mixed-up metaphors). We invite any Koran readers to contact us with detailed analysis, but we wouldn't assume that the lines mean everyone on the earth is going to die right now.

No, what really piques us about this story is that this isn't a new piece of music. It's two years old, for heaven's sake (whoops), but nobody has been offended until now - possibly because Diabaté is himself reportedly a Muslim. Or possibly because there's no point being offended until you can make a really big thing of it and force one of the world's largest technology companies into a publicly reported climb-down. When you're in Sony's position, you're simply not going to put up a fight; it's always easier to avoid controversy, apologise and remove the offending elements.

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And as for mixing music and Koranic phraseology: well, to be frank, if you don't like it, you don't have to listen. Islamic laws only apply to Muslims, and religious groups don't get to impose their doctrines on the rest of us. We have this thing called freedom of speech - there's no such thing as the right not to get offended.

More on the story here.

*The other one is SingStar:ABBA, obviously

UPDATE: The American Islamic Forum for Democracy, or AIFD, has injected a grain of sanity into the whole sorry mess.

"AIFD stands against any form of censorship in the marketplace of ideas, whether imposed by government or by corporations intimidated by the response of militants or those with an inappropriately sensitive level of political correctness," said AIFD president M Zuhdi Jasser MD.

He added that Mohammed himself "defended the rights of his enemies to critique him in any way even if it was offensive to his own Islamic sensibilities or respect for Koranic scripture".

Bravo, sir.

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