LittleBigPlanet Qur'an music track controversy intensifies

Cries of censorship were raised by a Muslim group.

LittleBigPlanet, once touted as the killer app for the PlayStation 3 this year, has encountered yet another round of controversy this week, as cries of censorship were raised by a Muslim group that saw the game's recall as detrimental to their religion.

"[American Islamic Forum for Democracy] 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 M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president of the non-profit AIFD, in an interview with EDGE.

Just to recap, LittleBigPlanet was recalled worldwide last week after a Muslim poster on Europe's official PlayStation message boards indicated that an in-game music track, called Tapha Niang by Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, sampled audio derived from the Muslim holy book, the Koran (aka Qur'an).

Setting the book's scriptures to music is seen as offensive to some Muslims, who view the Koran's text as the word of god. The outrage prompted Sony to act immediately and recall all copies of LBP from the retail channel.

It was the wrong course of action, Dr. Jasser contends.

"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," he said. "The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive."

Turning the initial forum complaint back against itself, Dr. Jasser 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."

The musician behind the musical track, Toumani Diabate, has also weighed in on the LBP recall, saying, "It's quite normal to play music and be inspired by the words of the Prophet Mohammed. It's my way to attract and inspire people towards Islam."

Nevertheless, the game remains recalled, and new copies will be issued to retailers next week. If you're one of the lucky ones with a "banned" copy, head to eBay, where they are selling for about US$200 each.

As noted by GameIndustry.biz, this is the second time in as many years that Sony has been plagued by religious controversy. In 2007, Sony was lambasted by religious leaders in the UK for including Manchester Cathedral as a level in Resistance: Fall of Man.

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Jack Loftus

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