Sony Videogame with Lyrics from the Quran in a Musical Track has Been Recalled

The Situation

A trial version of the Sony game LittleBigPlanet had a track by a Malian musician who had included two quranic verses in his song. When Sony realized that these verses had made it into the videogame as this track played, they issued a recall of the game and ensured the public that the track would be removed. They were determined, they claimed, to make sure that not a single solitary soul was offended.

Being as Unoffensive as Possible

Now, I appreciate that they did this. My friend JDsg and I often discuss the importance of not causing offense to others unnecessarily (see the Quran Read-A-Long posts), and I think it’s great that Sony is so determined to set things right. They are a global company with global responsibilities and in addition to doing what’s right for their business and public relations interests I imagine they also think they’re doing what’s right on a basic social level. And in pretty much all these cases I would say they are. Kudos, Sony.

However, what I’m wondering is where the decision to use this song came from in the first place. What I mean is, surely they got the rights to use the song in the game – at least I hope so – which means that either the artist himself or his producer/agent/label (though admittedly I’m unsure of how the Malian music business works) had to have signed off on this. Did no one warn Sony that this might be a problem or consider sharing with them that in using the song they were including two quranic verses in their videogame? Though it’s nice this was caught at the beta level of the game, I feel like someone didn’t do their homework at an earlier stage, and I’m a bit puzzled.

A Whole Lot of Questions

Second, which quranic verses were they? I’d be most interested to find out. Moreover, what is the game about? Does it relate to the verses because on some level it relates to the song? What about the song itself? Is it a secular song, and if so, is it as potentially offensive for the artist to have included the verses in his song as it is for Sony to have inadvertently used the song (and therefore the lyrics) in its game? Is it just that the singer has less to lose? Moreover, and this becomes more hypothetical, what if the game is about doing good and has positive messages (I have no idea what the game is about, by the way) – then is it acceptable to include a song with quranic verses, or the verses in writing if they actually reinforce the positive messages of the game? Is this along the same lines as depicting Mohammed? What if it was a Muslim videogame or even a videogame designed to teach children about the Quran? Then would it be allowed to include quranic verses?

I guess all these questions get at one big thing that I don’t get. I get that this could have been a potentially offensive situation to Muslims, but I guess I fail to see exactly why, and if it is because there is a policy as straightforward as “including quranic verses in videogames (in whatever fahion?) is wrong and offensive” what exactly is offensive and are there exceptions to this rule (e.g. Muslim games)?

A Post-Update

I would like to add that the author of the song has come out and said that he is a Muslim and in his culture singing verses from the Quran in songs is absolutely normal and acceptable. He’s also said it was not blasphemous and is bothered by this huge row. Apparently he was well aware that his song was being used and saw no problem or conflict. In fact, it is the Muslim Forum think tank that is opposing what he’s saying and insisting that it is unacceptable to have put the words of God to music like that.

So interestingly, though Sony was doing what it thought was right (and probably still is) in order to offend as few Muslims as possible, they’re definitely pissing off one by pulling his song on the grounds that it could be blasphemous in the first place when he insists that it’s not. It seems that this case is one of Muslims not having a consensus and western business interests definitely trying to save face in the process of offending as few people as possible. Is something wrong here?


What do you think about all this? Can you shed some light on any of my questions or puzzlement?

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