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FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut
Girl reading The 99 comic book character from the 99 comic book boy reading The 99 comic book character from the 99 comic book

Rough Cut
Indonesia: Wham! Bam! Islam!
Muslim superheroes come to Jakarta



New York-based filmmaker Isaac Solotaroff has produced a number of broadcast and theatrical documentaries. His recent FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut, Tibet: Eye Camp was adapted from his full documentary Visioning Tibet, which has screened in more than 30 international film festivals since 2005. He is also in production on a feature-length documentary about Dr. Naif al-Mutawa and his comic book The 99.

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Length: 8:51

Editor's note: Last season, FRONTLINE/World ran a story from the Middle East that introduced viewers to the fastest selling comic book in the Arab world, The 99. The comic features characters with super powers based on the concept of Allah's 99 attributes, including wisdom and generosity, as taught in the Koran. Its creator, Naif al-Mutawa, is a 36-year-old from Kuwait who was educated in the United States and who, as a boy, devoured Marvel comics and the Hardy Boys mysteries.

Naif al-Mutawa

Naif al-Mutawa speaks to a group of students.

Reporter Isaac Solotaroff followed al-Mutawa as he marketed his comics throughout the Middle East, hoping to spread a moderate, modern image of Islam to the world. In this update, Solotaroff catches up with al-Mutawa in Jakarta, Indonesia, where the comic creator is trying to sell his work to the largest Islamic country in the world, a country that accounts for one in six of all Muslims worldwide.>


yasmine aek - Chicago, IL
Muslim kids like all kids gobble up superhero stories regardless of what their parents think. My seven year old son is no exception and he can get discuss the merits of DC vs. Marvel superheroes. I think this is an amazing project. I agree with al-Mutawa globalization is here and we need to produce our own brands that reflect our ideas and values. If the rest of the world enjoys the comics as well then that would be wonderful. For those who don't believe that The 99 are representative of Islam then start another comic. With over 1 billion Muslims in the world God knows there'll be a market for it as well. Muslims have always differed in opinions let's not forget how to respect those differences.

California, USA

Washington, DC
I believe this is one of the greatest things to happen to Islam in a long time. As a Muslim, I join you in your pursuit of the historical significance of our religion and the impact that Muslims had on the world in the past. By truly embracing our "18th century" Islam, you have spoken on the true spirituality and openness that was practiced by the first generations of Muslims. Modern Muslim conservatism does not represent "traditional Islam" but moves us further and further away from the beliefs of our religion of equality and the ability to seek God all around you. By showing that all can believe in God on an individual level, you have enabled the youth of Islam today to see again that Islam is a religion that "cuts out the middle man." A religion where the most important relationship is between the individual and God.

Halima Afi - Oakland, CA
I really think this comic book has a good potential. I worry about the body image of Muslim, boys and especially young Muslim girls. Can a hero be created that dresses modestly and wears hijab. Or is that too extremist?

William Speer III - Atlanta, GA
I am SO GLAD this has happened!!! A dream come true. The entire team behind the 99 is bold, brave, and beautiful. World peace CAN work. Different is not dangerous. I believe in you guys. I intend to own every issue. God bless you all!

BRAVO ! Forward thinking and progress ! A great man with vision,intelligence and courage!

No way! Muslims who appreciate the fact that pictures,caricatures and cartoons are un-islamic cannot applaud this.Mr al-Mutawa please leave the ways of the west to the westerners.We in our humble Africa,shall embrace islam in its pure 18th century form.

Sigit Widodo - Jakarta, Indonesia
Indonesian editions available at bookstores in major cities in Indonesia (mostly in Java Island). If you cannot find it in locations near you, please feel free to call (021) 4682-5555.

When I first heard about this story, I thought that it would be impossible for a comic about the Islamic faith to be presented in such an accessible way. But after watching this story and understanding what it meant for both children and adults to view their religion in an updated form, I am now a believer. al-Mutawa is a very brave man to stand up to the social firestorm that was sure to follow from these comics. I am inspired that, instead of ducking the nay-sayers, he embraced them and challenged their own pre-conceived notions with his new ideas.

When al-Mutawa presented his ideas in a very modern and liberal manner, the children naturally reacted more positively than their parents who had lived under conservative Islamic standards their whole life. I find it interesting that although many people disagree with the way the characters of "The 99" are portrayed, they can still focus on the meaning of the work in its entirety, the characteristics that Allah exhibits in the Koran. Determining whether the non-traditional aspects of the comic outweigh the lack of tradition must be hard for parents to use their discretion. But, I believe it is inevitable that the upcoming generation of predominantly Islamic nations may bring about a liberal movement towards a modernized form of Islam even if it happens slowly and even insignificantly at first.

Alix Lytton - Allen, TX
This story caught my interest not only because it deals with eastern culture, but how one artist expressed his own ideas on what the "true" Islamic religion is. Al-Mutawa tried to argue against the Muslim community's essential beliefs by expressing how he wanted to modernize the religion in his western-style comic book. He clearly focuses on trying to influence others in the way of of Islam, but comes across it very liberally, straying from how Muslim officials would want their religion spread.

Isaac Solotaroff - New York, NY
The 99 is available in Bahasa. For information about where to purchase a copy in Indonesia email:

dini agung - yogyakarta, indonesia
Is this comic translated in Indonesia? Or if it isnt, where can I find it here?

didit herdiyanto - jakarta, indonesia
Awesome, dude. THE99 truly enters as the alternative superheroes serial nowadays, combining post modern visuals and Islamic values -- addressed to the universe.. salut

I think it's great! It's about time Muslim kids had a chance to experience something different.