Mali: Religious song self-censored from computer game



Religious song self-censored from computer game

The launch of a new Sony Playstation 3 video-computer game ‘LittleBigPlanet’ has been delayed because it contained sung verses from the Qur’an and Sony feared this could cause anger among religious Islamic groups.

‘LittleBigPlanet’ was supposed to be one of the biggest game releases of the season in the Western world. The incident places itself right in the middle of the current debate within the United Nations about defamation of religion, self-censorship because of religious sensitivities and limits for the right to freedom of expression.

A report on the music tc-channel MTV quoted the musician of the disputed song, Toumani Diabaté, and included comments from two Muslims explaining that “there is no explicit rule in Islam prohibiting a song like Diabate’s.”

On 22 October 2008, Freemuse received the following press release which allegedly was published by the singer’s record company, World Circuit Records:

Computer game delayed because of sung verses from the Koran

Toumani Diabaté
‘Tapha Niang’

Manufacturers Sony have delayed the release of the hotly anticipated computer game “Little Big Planet” as there have been complaints that one of the tracks, contains sung verses from the Koran set to music, and that this would be frowned upon in Islam.

The track, “Tapha Niang” by Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra (taken from the World Circuit album “Boulevard de l’Indépendance”), will now be replaced with an instrumental version instead.

In the song, the singer, Moussa Diabaté, adapts a traditional Malian song about the death of a much-loved hippopotamus who has been shot by a white hunter. In the original song (Mali Sadjo) the griots of the village sing about how difficult it is to be separated from your loved one in death. The singer adapts this song in “Tapha Niang” to lament the death of his brother Mustapha, who died very young as a child. Moussa draws on the excerpts from the Koran to console him & help him overcome his bereavement.

In this way, his intention (“Neeyah” in Islam) is a good one. He is not blaspheming or taking the Koran out of context. He is trying to draw strength from the words of the Prophet.

“كل نفس ذائقة الموت” (“kollo nafsin tha’iqatol mawt”, literally: ‘Every soul shall have the taste of death’).

“كل من عليها فان” (“kollo man alaiha fan”, literally: ‘All that is on earth will perish’).

It is important to remember that everyone – no matter who you are or what you do – will die one day. It is the will of God.

Toumani says that “it is quite normal to play music and be inspired by the words of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace on his Soul) in my country in Mali. You can see this on television all the time.”

Toumani never performs without speaking about God, either before, during or after the performance. “It is my way to attract and inspire people towards Islam.”

Similar incidents
Sony is not the only game software company which has been concerned about religious sensitivities:
In 2003 Microsoft withdrew its Xbox fighter game ‘Kakuto Chojin; Back Alley Brutal’ because of Qur’an verses chanted in the background.

Cleared in Lebanese court
In 1999, the Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife was accused of blasphemy and for insulting religious values because he had used a quote from a chapter of the Qur’an in one of his songs. Dar-al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, stated that singing verses from the Qur’an was ‘absolutely banned and not accepted.’ However, it was tried in court, and the a Lebanese court found Marcel Khalife innocent of the charges.

When musicians David Byrne and Brian Eno received complaints from a Muslim organisation about a piece of music they had produced which featured samples of Qur’anic recital on their successful 1981-album ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, they quietly removed it from the re-releases.


Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Sony’ + ‘Toumani’

Sydney Morning Herald – 31 October 2008:

‘Religious censorship abounds in video games’

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