Fortnite 'Kaaba destruction' modification prompts Al Azhar ban as game's creators issue denial
The creators of popular video game Fortnite have denied claims that players are able to destroy an in-game construction resembling the holy Kaaba, after a council of senior Muslim scholars issued a fatwa banning the game.
Videos and images showing a virtually rendered model of Islam's holiest site began trending among social media users across the Arab world this week.
Unverified claims were circulated about Epic Games' alleged update, including the option of destroying the Kaaba with an axe for players to obtain special weapons.
The backlash was followed by a decision from Muslim scholars at Egypt's Al-Azhar university, Sunni Islam's top religious authority, who issued an online fatwa banning the game for its alleged portrayal of the destruction of the Holy Kaaba, weeks before the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
"The game's inclusion of a portrayal of the destruction and mockery of the Holy Kaaba has a direct negative impact of the religious belief of young people, confuses their ideas and identity, and causes them to trivialise their sacred sites and objects," read a text of edict.
In response, the Fortnite team issued a statement on their Facebook page clarifying the matter. They identified the appearance a Kaaba-like model in screenshots shared online to be the result of in-game modifications by players using Fortnite's "creative mode".
The mode allows users to freely create content on their own "creative Islands". The Fortnite team denied this allowed the option to demolish the Kaaba.
Abdul Rahman Al Shamy, a Fortnite player and founder of a game development company, echoed the clarification in comments to BBC Arabic. He criticised the lack of due diligence on the part of the Al-Azhar scholars, who he suggested were issuing Islamic edicts based social media claims rather than consulting actual gamers.