Officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have issued a press release calling for retail chain Wal-Mart to stop selling controversial game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which they accuse of glorifying religious violence and potentially harming interfaith relations.
The real-time strategy game is based on the Left Behind series of books which deal with an Evangelical Christian eschatology view of the end times. The game has already been criticized by Christian and Jewish groups, with CAIR claiming that the game rewards players for either converting or killing people of other faiths.
In a letter to Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr., CAIR executive director Nihad Awad wrote in part: "We believe the message this game is promoting is one of religious intolerance. The game's enemy team includes people with Muslim-sounding names. When asked about the Arab and Muslim-sounding names, Left Behind Games' President Jeffrey Frichner said, 'Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ - and therefore cannot be on the side of Jesus in the game'. (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12/06) As you may know, Muslims do in fact revere Jesus as one of God's prophets.
"In the post 9-11 climate, when improving interfaith relations should be a priority for all, this type of product only serves to dehumanize others and increase interfaith hostility and mistrust.”, added Awad. “Each year, CAIR issues an annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights, outlining hundreds of incidents involving anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment and hate crimes. It is our experience that many of these incidents result from Islamophobic rhetoric and negative images of Muslims in popular culture...”
"We have no desire to stifle creativity or inhibit freedom of speech. However, it is our duty as America's leading Islamic civil rights group to promote mutual understanding and ensure the safety of Americans of all faiths,” continued Awad. "We also believe that as a company that prides itself in hiring and offering services to a diverse group of people, it is Wal-Mart's corporate social responsibility to take into account the potential social impact of its decision to sell this harmful game. We, therefore, respectfully request the removal of the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces from your shelves."
A response yesterday to the controversy, although not specifically the statement by CAIR, book publishers Tyndale Publishers stated that, “"We are careful to guard the content of our own products, and we worked with Left Behind Games to ensure that the content of their game is appropriate. There is a certain level of violence inherent in the story, just as there is a certain level of violence in the Left Behind books. After all, the period in which the game is set is a chaotic and dangerous time...," commented Mark D. Taylor, Tyndale House Publishers president. "The game is designed to be a classic battle between good and evil, but it does not gratuitously depict violence or death."