Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 10.20

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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26 Comments

  1. Unusually for me, I am going to defend Sony’s decision on this one. The Koran is the domain of Muslims, and it’s forbidden in Islam to set the Koran to music. The inclusion of the music was an oversight, and not a deliberate decision, and it’s sensible to correct that oversight. Had Sony known in advance that the music contained parts of the Koran, they wouldn’t have allowed it in the game. And neither should they, there is plenty of music in the world that doesn’t have the Koran in. Now they know, they’re taking steps to have it removed. I think that’s a sensible commercial decision.

    The MASSIVE MARKETING CYNIC in me suspects this is a manufactured issue for publicity, but I won’t voice that thought. Oh, oops.

  2. Well I’ll give credit to the Muslim Gamers at least they didn’t call for the death of Sony executives for their offense of the Muslim stories. It is curious though that a Muslim is allowed to write and publish songs seemingly without offense. Or am I missing something, I’ll admit my knowledge of such things is very limited. Is it ok for a Muslim to do this? If so then I could have no sympathy for someone who is offended because others don’t except their discrimination of others as valid.

  3. @tkingdoll: I don’t know, if the passages in the songs were a few lines about leprechauns from some ancient Irish folk story, and the Irish were getting pissy about the misappropriation of the faerie folk, would anyone give two seconds of consideration toward replacing the music?

    Religion is cultural mythology in the same way, but still is held in higher regard, even among nonbelievers. I don’t think it should be.

  4. This LBP thing pisses me off so much… this game has already been delayed for a billion other stupid reasons, and now THIS comes along. I don’t understand why Muslims can’t just boycott the game, or simply not play the stupid thing… why do they have to insist on changing it for everyone else? That’s just selfish, and there’s no way around that.

    @tkingdoll:
    “there is plenty of music in the world that doesn’t have the Koran in it.”
    That’s like saying one should censor their music because there’s plenty of better words than ‘fuck’ to express yourself. I disagree strongly.

    Bottom line is I just want to play this goddamn game. Anything that gets in my way just pisses me off.

  5. Ooxman, if a family game turned out to accidentally contain the word ‘fuck’, then Sony would withdraw it faster than you can say ‘someone’s gonna get fired’.

    The alternative is to just be inflammatory. Why bother? Just change the game, they didn’t intend for it to have words from the Koran in, and now they know it does, they don’t want them there. I don’t blame them. Muslim fundies, as rare as they are, can be nutters. Most Muslims in the West are unlikely to give two hoots about this, and I am pretty sure there has been no outcry. This is a pre-emptive step by Sony to remove something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. This also helps to ensure that Muslim kids aren’t stopped from buying the game by parents who might be biased by media reports about the inclusion (religious community pressure being what it is). If you’re going to be mad at someone for the additional delay of the game, be mad at the idiot who didn’t check the origin and lyrics of the music before putting it in the game. The fault is theirs and theirs alone, as it would be if the music turned out to have the Somalian words for “I like screwing children” in it. The point is not the potential offense caused, the point is not checking thoroughly in the first place. If this was something Western that Muslims might object to (say, nudity), then I think it’s fair to say “get bent, you aren’t inflicting your values on us”, but the Koran is a Muslim holy text, and I think Sony is sensible to respect that.

    Equally, I think Sony was wrong in their handling of the Manchester Cathedral issue, although that is a public building, but then again I can’t remember the last time a Christian fundie blew anything up so Sony might be less inclined to worry about it. But you can bet that they don’t do it again. And oh look, here they are, trying to avoid doing it again. Good for them.

  6. I’m with TK on this one. If the backlash to the game’s music had included threats or more violent rhetoric, I’d have a different opinion – but the objection civilly asked for a correction and threatened nothing. I don’t think this is so much a case of Sony bowing to extremist pressure, but trying to respectfully address concerns of customers who expressed their concerns respectfully in the first place. Even if I personally feel it’s a bit ridiculous to get so worked up over, if I were Sony, I’d probably do the same thing.

  7. Jen, that raises an interesting question: if you respond in a disproportionate manner, does that remove any validity your objection may have?

    For example, I think it’s reasonable for someone with a firmly-held religious belief to request that their holy text not be set to music. I don’t agree with sacred cows, but much of the world does, and I don’t have another reality to go and live in so I have to operate in this one. If they ask in a reasonable way, it’s likely I’d comply. But if they ask in an unreasonable way, I’d want to tell them where to get off. However, the basis of the complaint is the same in both cases, it’s just the attitude that’s different. Should our reaction be the same in both cases (compliance), or should we reserve compliance only for those who ask nicely?

    I guess what I’m saying is, even if there had been threats of violence, I still think Sony shouldn’t put Koran verses in their games. I would be angry at the disproportionate response but the objection would still be valid. The problem is, it would then look like Sony is responding to the threats rather than the legitimate objection. I’m very glad that that wasn’t the case here.

    I’d also like to reiterate that the responsibility for this is entirely with the people who chose the music for the game. If they were aware of the Koran content, they were incompetent. If they were not aware of it, they were negligent. Either way, if your job is to choose music for a family game then your job is to know what the lyrical content is, regardless of the language it is in, as per my ‘I like screwing kids’ point in my previous post.

  8. @tkingdoll: That’s a good point. At first glance, I would also say that the music shouldn’t be in the game at all. But the article also mentioned that the music’s composer was a “devout Muslim” – so I’m not sure if it’s a foregone conclusion that having bits of the Koran in music would offend all Muslims. I’m not extremely knowledgeable about Islam, but I do know there’s definitely a huge range of opinions among Christians whether or not a certain thing is really “allowed” or not, even if it’s mentioned in the Bible. So, I guess, without knowing that exact nature or extent of the offense, I feel like I can only judge on basis of the nature of the complaint. But I do agree with you that this is problem is something that should have at least been considered before it got to this point.

  9. Yes, I think interpretations of Islam are as varied as any other religion (probably more so), but if it were me, Ms Western Non-Muslim, making a commercial decision about music, I wouldn’t touch Koran lyrics with a ten-foot pole, or anything Muslim. Sign of the times, maybe, and I suspect the majority of Muslims either don’t care or don’t want to be pandered to, but that’s not my decision to make. I find the most sensible approach (if in doubt) is to leave well alone. After all, Sony’s only objective is to make a huge wad of cash. We’re not talking about social decisions (for example those a Government makes), we’re talking commercial ones. And where money is concerned, it’s always important to be mindful of potential problems. That’s why screening processes exist in the first place. Sony have acknowledged that had they known the content, they wouldn’t have allowed the music, and I think they’re right in acknowledging that this could offend *some* Muslims. Or, offend just one violent fundie looking for an excuse. Either way, protecting their investment is Sony’s first concern.

  10. Actually, if it was an accident on Sony’s part, I don’t have any problem with them removing the music. They are, after all, in the business of making money and since the specific music used is not an important part of the product in question, it makes good business sense for them to remove it.

  11. TK & Jen, I agree with both your points about Sony’s oversight, and it all being about protecting their profits. Those are both good enough reasons to change the music. But still… a big part of me can’t get over my initial reaction of “this is stupid”. That’s my own issue, and something I’ll have to learn to deal with… because apparently that’s how the world works nowadays.

  12. @Ooxman: Oh gosh, I’m not denying it’s stupid, in that I think any sacred cow or protected thing, feeling etc is stupid, in the same way I think any action or inaction based on the belief in an invisible sky daddy or ancient biased text is stupid, rather like how I think expecting the world to conform to your notion of what deserves respect or not is stupid, similar to how I feel about some people’s self-appointed right to take offence is stupid. Hope you can parse all that :D

    But like you say, the world works a certain way, religious sensitivity abounds. I’d rather it didn’t, just like I’d rather people thought before they worshipped, but you can’t reason yourself out of a position you didn’t reason yourself into, and nowhere is that truer than religion.

  13. “you can’t reason yourself out of a position you didn’t reason yourself into”- tkingdoll

    Wow, such a simple eloquent way to summarise my frustration when discussing religion with believers. I’m definitely going to use this quote, with permission, thank-you!

  14. Following up on TK’s point: There’s a good way to handle any reasonable request that is made in an unreasonable, bullying way. Just say (repeatedly if necessary) “We would be happy to comply with any polite request.”

    The ball is now in the bully’s court. They can either make a polite request and get results, or they can reveal themselves to be far more interested in escalating their bullying than in being civilized. Either way the bully chooses, you look gentle, non-confrontational, and reasonable – Yet still firm against intimidation.

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