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Mimicry in Ninety Nine ISLAM Today

Mimicry in Ninety Nine ISLAM Today

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Published by jason_polen

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Published by: jason_polen on Feb 15, 2011
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Mimicry in the Hit Islamic Comic Book 
By Jason PolenIslam Today6/10/09
The new hit comic book called
The Ninety-Nine
is a top seller amongst Muslim childrenaround the world. The title, sometimes written
The 99,
refers to the ninety-nine attributes of Allah. Throughout the plot there is a superhero for every attribute of Allah; some use their  power for good and some for bad, much like some political leaders in Islamic countries. Thewestern style comic book was created by Dr. Naif al-Mutawa of Kuwait. As a child, Dr. Mutawawas sent to summer camps in the United States, and eventually received a PhD in ClinicalPsychology and an M.B.A from Columbia University. Dr. Mutawa says,“The biggest lesson from Spiderman is that ‘with great power comes greatresponsibility’. Is that a Judeo-Christian ethic or an Islamic one? Absolutely not, that is auniversal message. And that’s what we are trying to achieve with the 99. We are dippinginto our own culture and pulling out those messages for a global audience”
.His Kuwaiti upbringing combined with a western education is enough to label him as having ahybrid identity, or someone with dominant influences from distinctly different cultures. Thecomic book’s blending of an inherently American genre of pop culture and the religion of Islam,which has sometimes been used as a tool to promote anti-Americanism by Islamicfundamentalists, also creates a hybrid identity that is highly controversial given the geopoliticalsituation between Islam and the U.S.I analyze Dr. Mutawa and his comic book’s hybrid identities from the perspective of  postcolonial mimicry. V.S. Naipaul created the term “mimic men” in his 1967 novel called
TheMimic Men
, which set the course for a postcolonial theory that addresses the phenomenon thatoccurred in colonialism by which the colonized imitates the colonizer; this could include acting,dressing, thinking, pretending, or speaking. Mimicry, in and of itself, is really more of anobservation made by Naipaul. Derek Walcott interprets Naipaul’s observation as,
“To mimic, one needs a mirror, and, if I understand Mr. Naipaul correctly, our  pantomime is conducted before a projection of ourselves…No gesture, according to this philosophy, is authentic, every sentence is a quotation, every movement either ambitiousor pathetic, and because it is mimicry, uncreative”
.I focus specifically on mimicry as viewed by Walcott’s, “The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry”,and Homi Bhabha’s, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”. I arguethat, although Dr. Mutawa has not been literally colonized by a western force, his westerninfluences from childhood and education make him a type of modern mimic man. Finally, Iargue that the implications made by the use of his modern mimicry and the comic book’s hybrididentity are far from V.S. Naipaul’s depiction of mimic men as uncreative; in fact, theyultimately contribute to a much healthier relationship between Islam and the West.Dr. Mutawa is clearly using a very western canvas to apply his Islamic idea. In fact, mostof the artists and writers are Americans. The comic book is also written first in English, and thentranslated to Arabic. All these western ideas, but with and Islamic twist, are exactly what Naipaul would call mimicry. From Naipaul’s perspective, being educated and spending time inthe U.S. has caused Dr. Mutawa to look at himself from western standards. In PBS reporter Issac Solotaroff’s diary he says,“Naif proved to be a study in contradictions, an Arab who grew up going to a predominately Jewish summer camp in New Hampshire; a doctor of psychology who hadworked in Bellevue Hospital’s Torture Unit, treating former Iraqi soldiers who had onceinvaded his native Kuwait; a Muslim who had never been particularly religious, but wascreating a comic book based on teaching from the Koran”

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