ABU DHABI // Dr Naif al Mutawa, the creator of the Muslim superhero comic series The 99, will speak tonight in the capital about familiarising people with the values that Islam represents.
The 99 are an international band of comic-book superheroes whose backgrounds are rooted in the Muslim world. Their powers are based on the 99 attributes of Allah, including generosity, wisdom and mercy.
Dr al Mutawa said that in his comic-book series and in his speech tonight, he is seeking to reshape perceptions of Islam from more extremist messages to ideas that are more tolerant and multicultural.
"If you look at something with negative extremist eyes, you put out extremist messages," he said. "But if you look at the same source with tolerant eyes, you'll get tolerant messages."
He said his inspiration for The 99 came to him in an unlikely place.
"I was in a cab in London when I just finished all my schooling, and I was having a conversation with my sister, and one thought led to another, and the result was The 99," he said. "That was in the summer of 2003. I raised my first round of financing by the summer of 2004, and the first book of The 99 came out in the summer of 2006."
Last year, The 99 teamed up with DC Comics' Justice League of America, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.
Much more is on the horizon.
Animation for 26 episodes of a TV show starring The 99 have been created in 3D and high-definition. The show's co-producers are the same ones behind the television shows Big Brother, Deal or No Deal and Star Academy. Dr al Mutawa also plans to create a theme park in Kuwait, based on the characters.
Dr al Mutawa, who holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University and an MBA from Columbia University, has earned international acclaim for The 99.
He was named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Jordan, in concert with Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
The US president Barack Obama praised The 99 for spreading tolerance in the world, and Forbes named it one of the top 20 pop culture trends sweeping the globe.
One of The 99's superheroes is an 18-year-old woman from Dubai. Her name is Dana Ibrahim, and her alter ego is Noora, which means The Light.
Her power is the ability to see the light of truth in others, and to allow them to see it in themselves.
"Jabbar (The Powerful), Noora (The Light) and Sami (The Listener) from The 99 are working with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman together," Dr al Mutawa said. "Until I popped up on the scene, the only things being linked to the Quran is very negative, so the idea was using the thinking behind biblical story telling and applying it to the Quran."
Dr al Mutawa's speech will take place from 6.30pm until 8.30pm in New York University Abu Dhabi Institute's Al Mamoura Auditorium.