Since its inception in 2006, Islam’s most popular comic strip, The 99, and its creator, Naif al-Mutawa, have both been the subject of much media scrutiny. Despite eschewing references to the most significant texts, figures, and symbols of Islam—readers of the comic find no mention of the Qur’an or the Prophet—neither its fiercest critics nor its most fervent supporters doubt the essentially Islamic nature of The 99. Drawing on the responses of students at the American University in Dubai (AUD), this paper explores how and why, within this modern Gulf setting, The 99 resonates as a profoundly Islamic publication. Attention is paid, first, to The 99’s origin saga, through which Muslim history is smoothed over, then re-spun in ways familiar to our students; and, second, to a number of special editions of The 99, through which al-Mutawa offers a new understanding of Islam’s role—with remarkable implications for political leadership—in contemporary society, both Muslim and non-Muslim.


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pp. 36-70
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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