Jihad Al Mofadda, a 26-year-old Saudi gamer who has been a PlayStation Network member since 2010, recently had his account banned by Sony because his PSN handle "iJihad" was deemed to be against the network's terms of service. While the word "Jihad" has often been associated with Islamic terrorism in the West, the term is actually derived from the Arabic word "Jahada", which means to struggle and strive for a better way of life.
Taking to Reddit to detail his predicament, Al Mofadda said the issue popped up three days after he began playing Overwatch: Collector's Edition, which he pre-ordered two months in advance. He said he received an email from Sony stating that his account was suspended due to his username. Al Mofadda said he initially received an email from the Japanese gaming giant offering him the chance to change his online ID - a long-requested feature from fans - and avoid receiving a permanent ban.
However, after Al Mofadda sent over a list of proposed alternative user names, he said he received another email from a different customer support representative who informed him that the ban would remain permanent because his online ID was deemed "inappropriate and/or offensive". Besides locking him out of his account and games, the ban also wiped out his progress and invalidated his digital purchases as well.
According to the email, user handles cannot contain "anything that is defamatory or offensive", "hate speech", or "threats of violence".
"Why offer me a solution then revoke it because another Support guy doesn't feel he liked my name or background?" Al-Mofadda wrote. "This is far beyond any good support or professionalism."
Even after reportedly sending PlayStation Support a photo of his passport to prove his legal name, the gamer said his request was rejected again via email.
"As stated in our previous email, we have to consider the network as a whole and we need to take every ones feelings into account," the email reads. "I can appreciate that your name has many meanings but it has one meaning that a lot of users find offensive and there for, when a report was submitted the decision to ban your account was taken."
Game Informer reports that more than 9,800 users have a PSN account that includes the word "jihad" in their IDs as well.
PlayStation UK contacted Al Mofadda via Twitter shortly after and offered to change his user handle and restore his account. However, Al-Mofadda said the offer still has "its costs".
The player reported that his trophies were not syncing properly and could possibly disappear. Additionally, his friends list and social communication have been deleted.
"The other interesting thing, he made the change from iJihad to Jiii — in just 2 seconds over the phone call!," Al Mofadda wrote. "It's not rocket science but it needs much technical improvements. (Noting my trophies are ZERO now after syncing)."
He did, however, thank Reddit and the gaming community for their support during the ban.
"I'm really thankful to all of you guys who supported me and support Gaming community in general. These voices are the ones who will shape the future of gaming. If we let Corporate Managers decide, bad things always happen. Keep up the high voice! We are always heard no matter where we are!!"
Earlier this year, Paragon developer Epic Games also blocked a gamer named Muhammad Khan from signing up for the game's beta because his name appeared on a government list. Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney immediately responded to Khan on Twitter apologising for the mistake and assuring him that the team would make amends.