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Pokemon Go investigated as threat to Egypt's security

Egyptian officials are considering new regulations for online games including the new popular smartphone app
A man uses the Pokemon Go application on his mobile in the main fish market in Kuwait City on 14 July 2016 (AFP)

An Egyptian official on Wednesday said government agencies were investigating if the popular new game Pokemon Go was dangerous to Egypt's national security.

Cabinet spokesman Hossam al-Qawish said officials are considering new regulations for online games in order to minimise potential dangers, the Saudi-owned news website al-Arabiya reported.

Hani al-Nazer, former president of the National Research Centre (which is affiliated with Egypt's Ministry of Scientific Research), told al-Arabiya that Pokemon Go "could be used for espionage and information gathering".

Citing the game's ability to collect data about its players, Nazer called on Egypt's government to put regulations into place to prevent any threat to national security.

Pokemon Go is an app-based game that geo-locates users who must walk around to capture, train and battle virtual Pokemon in their areas.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, media reports quoted the deputy head of Egypt's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar, heavily criticising the game.

“This game makes people look like drunkards in the streets and on the roads while their eyes are glued to the mobile screens leading them to the location of the imaginary Pokemon in the hope of catching it,” Gulf News quoted Abbas Shuman as saying.

“If such a game can deceive youngsters, I do not know where the minds of adults have gone. They can be hit by a car while being busy searching for Pokemon."

“Will people neglect their work and earning their living and devote themselves instead to hunting for Pokemon?” the Dubai-based newspaper quoted him as saying.

Other reports said that al-Azhar had issued a new fatwa forbidding Pokemon Go, saying it was un-Islamic. But Egypt's state-owned news agency al-Ahram denied the reports.

Al-Azhar did issue a fatwa against the original Pokemon game in 2001, however, decrying its "Darwinian ideas" (an apparent reference to most Pokemon's "evolution" from one form to another).

The edict added that the game "instills in the child's mind fictions that have no basis and supernatural [creatures] that don't exist in nature," according to al-Ahram. But al-Azhar has no executive power, so the fatwa was largely ignored.

At the time, some Evangelical Christian groups in the United States also objected to the original Pokemon game for its depiction of evolution.