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Muslims craft their own video games

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Afkar Media has already produced two games, both dealing with the plight of the Palestinian people. One game released last year, "Under Siege," was born out of frustration with the prevalance of Arabs and Muslims portrayed as terrorists in Western video games. The creators of the game say the story line counteracts the biases in some Western games by showing the Palestinian struggle from an Arab vantage point and creating Arab and Muslim characters who are fighting in self-defense.

In the first scene of "Under Siege," Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler who killed 27 worshipers in a Hebron mosque in 1994, snickers as he sneaks up to the mosque where two boys, Maen and Ahmed, are among those praying inside. Goldstein enters the mosque and starts shooting into the prostrated crowd.

As chaos ensues, Ahmed must disarm Goldstein and turn to fight Israeli soldiers. Killing civilians - Israeli or Arab - will make him lose his stamina. Maen is armed with a slingshot and must help the ambulance, which is being blocked by Israeli forces, reach the mosque.

Critics say the game merely inverts stereotypes - replacing extremist caricatures of Muslims with extremist caricatures of Jews, like that of Baruch Goldstein, and using the violent "shooter" format common to many video games.

But by giving young Muslims and Arabs the chance to see themselves in "the good guy" roles, Kasmiya hopes the games will bolster self-esteem among the region's children.

"Most video games on the market are anti-Arab and anti-Islam," says Kasmiya. "Arab gamers are playing games that attack their culture, their beliefs, and their way of life. The youth who are playing the foreign games are feeling guilt. On the outside they look like they don't care, but inside they do care. But we also don't want to do something about Arabs killing Westerners."

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