Illustration by Pep Montserrat for The National
Illustration by Pep Montserrat for The National

Broken legs, death threats and fatwas: the trials and tribulations of The 99



Many years ago, I was the volleyball counsellor at a summer camp in New England. It was 1990 and I was fit for five minutes. It seems there’s always an injury I can blame my (lack of) fitness on. That summer was no different.

Running into the lake, I slipped. My hands instinctively shielded my face from hitting the lake bottom and my elbows jerked back and got caught in the sand, sending my right shoulder out of its socket. I popped it back in. It was painful. I had to rest for a week before seeing a doctor. And then, on the way to the clinic, I had a terrible car accident that meant I completed my journey to the hospital in an ambulance. I’ve had my share of car accidents. Two of them were not my fault. This was one of those. It involved being shunted by a Mack truck while I was stationary at a traffic light.

At the hospital I was told that my shoulder had popped out again and that the boot of my car had been compressed to within inches of my head. I was lucky.

It was there I met an ambulance chaser, which was a first. I got his card. I got his pitch. I told him there and then not to bother: if the lorry driver who had written off my car had money, I reasoned, he would have had brakes too. I also told him I did not want to live my life by taking something away from someone else. I wanted to create rather than destroy. I did not want to be associated with a bottom feeder.

A few weeks later, a six-year-old boy sneaked up on me while I was brushing my teeth and said: “You don’t have a country ... you don’t have a country ...” A fellow counsellor who had roughly the same intellect as the young boy was hiding behind a tree. He had put the child up to it. It was surreal.

I called my father in Kuwait and he casually explained to me that Iraq’s invasion was a routine matter that would solve itself in a matter of days. It didn’t. The things fathers say.

Now, many years later, I have spent the summer recovering from another painful injury (giving me another excuse to explain away why I’m still not fit).

Last summer, as I was leaving my children’s summer camp in New England, I missed a step on an outdoor staircase and got my leg caught between a step and a tree root. I went in one direction and my leg in another. I broke my leg so badly my bones came out of my body for a breath of fresh air. My surgeon referred to my fracture as Humpty Dumpty. It took several surgeries and months of physical therapy to start to feel normal again.

While I recovered, another bottom feeder made his way into my life, this time forcefully. A man whose view of reality is narrow and violent, sued me for heresy and went around submitting false accusations to various institutions asking for a fatwa on my work with The 99, a super- hero cartoon series I created based on the 99 attributes of God.

Sadly, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the ministry of Islamic affairs in Kuwait did not do their homework and issued fatwas condemning The 99 based on false accusations and misstatements provided by this ambulance chaser. This is after The 99 had been broadcast daily for two years all over the world.

The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, world leaders including president Barack Obama, the emir of Kuwait and many others endorsed my work for bridging cultures and tolerance.

In fact, The 99 has been approved by the ministries of information in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was funded by a Saudi Islamic Investment Bank with its own Sharia board.

This accusation opened up a Pandora’s box and led to an avalanche of extremists each trying to outdo one another. It led to fatwas and more recently death threats from Twitter accounts linked to ISIL and Al Qaeda.

You can imagine the call I had with my parents and my children when the front page of Kuwait’s leading daily newspaper quoted various death threats. Look on the bright side I told my parents. This shows the impact of The 99.

My son, who is a summer camp counsellor this year, called me in a state of panic. His friends told him I was dead or that I was going to jail. I tried to allay his fears by telling him it was routine. The things fathers say.

But that is not the end of the story. The early 1990s witnessed Disney releasing their smash hit Aladdin. The opening lyrics of the song entitled Arabian Nights were: “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

Having released it on the heels of Desert Storm, Disney thought they could get away with the lyrics. They couldn’t. Protests led to changing the lyrics on the video and DVD versions. I was among the protesters.

Last week I took my children to watch Aladdin the Musical on Broadway. And as I sat in the audience I couldn’t help wonder should those lyrics have been changed? Should I have protested against them? Isn’t someone trying to cut off my head because they don’t like the way I think?

As I write this I am considering going to Kuwait to answer charges of heresy. The ministry of information has turned a number of production companies over to the public prosecutor for violating the audio-visual media law.

May God bless Kuwait and may the forces of darkness not muffle innovation and creativity. And may the ministries start to understand that in the name of protecting our culture they are responsible for killing it by scaring off the content creators and the content investors.

Why would anyone invest in media content if the producers can be sent off to the public prosecutor’s office and potentially serve jail time. Isn’t it just easier to keep dubbing Turkish, Mexican and American dramas?

And if we keep doing that, aren’t we diluting our culture? And if we do, then whose fault is that? Perhaps the ministries were not set up to protect our culture after all.

Dr Naif Al Mutawa is the founder and chairman of Teshkeel Media Group

On Twitter: @DrNaif

SPECS

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Torque: 430Nm
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Spec sheet

Display: 4.7" Retina HD, 1334 x 750, 625 nits, 1400:1, True Tone, P3
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Front camera:
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Biometrics: Touch ID
Durability: IP67, dust, water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes
Price: From Dh1,849

SPECS

Engine: 6-cylinder 3-litre, with petrol and diesel variants
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 286hp (petrol), 249hp (diesel)
Torque: 450Nm (petrol), 550Nm (diesel)
Price: Starting at $69,800
On sale: Now

ETFs explained

Exhchange traded funds are bought and sold like shares, but operate as index-tracking funds, passively following their chosen indices, such as the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and the FTSE All World, plus a vast range of smaller exchanges and commodities, such as gold, silver, copper sugar, coffee and oil.

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There are thousands to choose from, with the five biggest providers BlackRock’s iShares range, Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors SPDR ETFs, Deutsche Bank AWM X-trackers and Invesco PowerShares.

Team Angel Wolf Beach Blast takes place every Wednesday between 4:30pm and 5:30pm

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Profile box

Company name: baraka
Started: July 2020
Founders: Feras Jalbout and Kunal Taneja
Based: Dubai and Bahrain
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $150,000
Current staff: 12
Stage: Pre-seed capital raising of $1 million
Investors: Class 5 Global, FJ Labs, IMO Ventures, The Community Fund, VentureSouq, Fox Ventures, Dr Abdulla Elyas (private investment)

MATCH INFO

Barcelona 5 (Lenglet 2', Vidal 29', Messi 34', 75', Suarez 77')

Valladolid 1 (Kiko 15')

The Limehouse Golem
Director: Juan Carlos Medina
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth
Three stars

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Benefits:  No tax, no restrictions on dual citizenship, no requirement to visit or reside to retain a passport. Visa-free access to 129 countries.

UK - UAE Trade

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and the UAE in 2022 was £21.6 billion (Dh98 billion). 

This is an increase of 63.0 per cent or £8.3 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of 2021.

 

The UAE was the UK’s 19th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022 accounting for 1.3 per cent of total UK trade.

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

Race card

1.45pm: Maiden Dh75,000 1,200m.

2.15pm: Maiden Dh75,000 1,200m.

2.45pm: Handicap Dh95,000 1,200m.

3.15pm: Handicap Dh120,000 1,400m.

3.45pm: Handicap Dh80,000 1,400m.

4.15pm: Handicap Dh90,000 1,800m.

4.45pm: Handicap Dh80,000 1,950m.

The National selections:

1.45pm: Galaxy Road – So Hi Speed

2.15pm: Majestic Thunder – Daltrey

2.45pm: Call To War – Taamol

3.15pm: Eqtiraan - Bochart

3.45pm: Kidd Malibu – Initial

4.15pm: Arroway – Arch Gold

4.35pm: Compliance - Muqaatil

Result

Arsenal 4
Monreal (51'), Ramsey (82'), Lacazette 85', 89')

West Ham United 1
Arnautovic (64')

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Roll of Honour, men’s domestic rugby season

West Asia Premiership
Champions: Dubai Tigers
Runners up: Bahrain

UAE Premiership
Champions: Jebel Ali Dragons
Runners up: Dubai Hurricanes

UAE Division 1
Champions: Dubai Sharks
Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins II

UAE Division 2
Champions: Dubai Tigers III
Runners up: Dubai Sharks II

Dubai Sevens
Champions: Dubai Tigers
Runners up: Dubai Hurricanes

UAE SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Ali Khaseif, Fahad Al Dhanhani, Mohammed Al Shamsi, Adel Al Hosani

Defenders: Bandar Al Ahbabi, Shaheen Abdulrahman, Walid Abbas, Mahmoud Khamis, Mohammed Barghash, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Hassan Al Mahrami, Yousef Jaber, Salem Rashid, Mohammed Al Attas, Alhassan Saleh

Midfielders: Ali Salmeen, Abdullah Ramadan, Abdullah Al Naqbi, Majed Hassan, Yahya Nader, Ahmed Barman, Abdullah Hamad, Khalfan Mubarak, Khalil Al Hammadi, Tahnoun Al Zaabi, Harib Abdallah, Mohammed Jumah, Yahya Al Ghassani

Forwards: Fabio De Lima, Caio Canedo, Ali Saleh, Ali Mabkhout, Sebastian Tagliabue, Zayed Al Ameri

Result

UAE (S. Tagliabue 90+1') 1-2 Uzbekistan (Shokhruz Norkhonov 48', 86')

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

The Witcher - season three

Director: Various

Stars:
Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra

Rating:
3/5

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8

Power: 611bhp

Torque: 620Nm

Transmission: seven-speed automatic

Price: upon application

On sale: now

Super Saturday results

4pm: Mahab Al Shimaal Group 3 | US$350,000 | (Dirt) | 1,200m
Winner: Drafted, Pat Dobbs (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer).

4.35pm: Al Bastakiya Listed | $300,000 | (D) | 1,900m
Winner: Divine Image, Brett Doyle, Charlie Appleby.

5.10pm: Nad Al Sheba Turf Group 3 | $350,000 | (Turf) | 1,200m
Winner: Blue Point, William Buick, Charlie Appleby.

5.45pm: Burj Nahaar Group 3 | $350,000 | (D) | 1,600m
Winner: Muntazah, Jim Crowley, Doug Watson.

6.20pm: Dubai City of Gold Group 2 | $300,000 | (T) | 2,410m
Winner: Old Persian, William Buick, Charlie Appleby.

6.55pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Group 1 | $600,000 | (D) | 2,000m
Winner: Capezzano, Mickael Barzalona, Salem bin Ghadayer.

7.30pm: Jebel Hatta Group 1 | $400,000 | (T) | 1,800m
Winner: Dream Castle, Christophe Soumillon, Saeed bin Suroor.

SPEC SHEET: APPLE TV 4K (THIRD GENERATION)

CPU: Apple A15 Bionic

Capacity: 64GB, Wi-Fi only; 128GB, Wi-Fi + ethernet

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, ethernet (Wi-Fi + ethernet model only), IR receiver

I/O: HDMI, ethernet (128GB model only); Siri remote (charging via USB-C); accessibility features

Video: SDR/Dolby Vision/HDR10+ up to 2160p @ 60fps

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Photo: GIF, HEIF, JPEG, TIFF

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In the box: TV 4K, Siri remote, power cord

Price: Dh529, Wi-Fi only; Dh599, Wi-Fi + ethernet

The specs

Engine: 6-cylinder, 4.8-litre
Transmission: 5-speed automatic and manual
Power: 280 brake horsepower
Torque: 451Nm
Price: from Dh153,00
On sale: now

The specs: 2018 Jeep Compass

Price, base: Dh100,000 (estimate)

Engine: 2.4L four-cylinder

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Power: 184bhp at 6,400rpm

Torque: 237Nm at 3,900rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 9.4L / 100km

If you go

  • The nearest international airport to the start of the Chuysky Trakt is in Novosibirsk. Emirates (www.emirates.com) offer codeshare flights with S7 Airlines (www.s7.ru) via Moscow for US$5,300 (Dh19,467) return including taxes. Cheaper flights are available on Flydubai and Air Astana or Aeroflot combination, flying via Astana in Kazakhstan or Moscow. Economy class tickets are available for US$650 (Dh2,400).
  • The Double Tree by Hilton in Novosibirsk (+7 383 2230100,) has double rooms from US$60 (Dh220). You can rent cabins at camp grounds or rooms in guesthouses in the towns for around US$25 (Dh90).
  • The transport Minibuses run along the Chuysky Trakt but if you want to stop for sightseeing, hire a taxi from Gorno-Altaisk for about US$100 (Dh360) a day. Take a Russian phrasebook or download a translation app. Tour companies such as Altair-Tour (+7 383 2125115 ) offer hiking and adventure packages.
The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 261hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh129,999 (VX Luxury); from Dh149,999 (VX Black Gold)


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