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Toy gun named after 'Osama bin Laden' popular among Pakistani kids

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(RNN) - A new toy gun available in Pakistan is named after Osama bin Laden – and it's extremely popular among kids.

The toy gun sells for between $4 and $20, and is being bought for and by children in celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a celebration at the end of the Ramadan, or "holy month," according to Pakistan news site, The Express Tribune.

The toy gun, which is made to look like a miniature Kalashnikov, sold out soon after it reached downtown Karachi markets.

"This is Osama gun. It became instantly popular among children," said Paposh Nagar, a downtown Karachi dealer, reported Express Tribune. "I bought 500 Osama guns and they all sold out on the first day of Eid. And the demand is still there."

It is uncertain what the "Osama bin Laden" name brand means to the kids buying the toy gun and playing cops and robbers in the streets, but there is no doubt that the former al-Qaida leader has a strong influence in Pakistan.

Two months after bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals, Pakistan's prestigious Punjab University held a poem and essay competition in his honor, according to Associated Press.

The 2011 event sparked controversy in Pakistan and was coordinated by a student group connected to hardliner Islamic extremists and not necessarily by school leaders. However, it indicated that a significant portion of Pakistan's population holds bin Laden in high regard, with even more disapproving of the U.S.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2011 found that 63 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the U.S. killing bin Laden, and 55 percent saw his death as a "bad thing."

And a poll done by the Pew Research Center in 2012 found that 80 percent of Pakistanis saw the U.S. as "unfavorable" and 74 percent saw the U.S. as an "enemy."

Those numbers increased after bin Laden's death.

The fact that children are using their pocket money to buy toy guns named after the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that killed 3,000 civilians in New York is another indication that esteem for bin Laden and al-Qaida remain high in the region.

But some Pakistinis are appalled.

"Those who have introduced this gun are followers of extremism. They are promoting their ideology by promoting bin Laden's name among children," said Nangyal Yousufzai, a poet who works against Pakistani gun culture, according to the Express Tribune.

He added: "It is lethal for our society. First, the kids will play with toy guns. Then, when they get older, they will play with real guns."

Many Pakistani leaders have criticized their country's gun culture, arguing that kids playing with toy guns helps to promote gun violence as an adult.

Dr. Hyder Abbas Rizvi, the former chairman of Karachi University's department of psychology, said the popularity of the gun is indicative of al-Qaida's influence and the country's gun culture, but there might also be a simpler explanation: people want to make money off of a popular trend.

"Whether the death of Osama was [more] propaganda or [more] reality, I don't know," Rizvi told the Express Tribune. "But he is considered a hero in our society."

Rizvi added that it's not just Pakistanis who have made money off of bin Laden's image – American video game and movie companies have given the former al-Qaida chief a starring role in their products.

Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the lead-up to bin Laden's assassination, grossed nearly $100 million in the U.S. alone.

And several video games have allowed players to shoot bin Laden themselves, including the wildly popular Medal of Honor series.

In both Zero Dark Thirty and Medal of Honor, CIA officials and military personnel were criticized over accusations that confidential information was passed to movie and video game creators to produce a more realistic account of bin Laden's killing.

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