The Arabized Harry Potter Gets Banned

Remember this big cultural phenomenon about a boy wizard named Harry Potter? Well, if you do, you might be interested to know that the Arabic version of Harry Potter has just been banned. Ponder that for a moment. I know. It’s heavy. Let it sink in.

Oh, wait. This time, the ban is actually political and not cultural nor religious. What’s more, the ban is in Israel of all places.

See. And you thought an Arab government was to blame. I told you it was heavy.

harry potter arabic

Harry Potter and Pinocchio are apparently not welcome in Israel, at least in their Arabic translations imported from Syria and Lebanon. Arab-Israeli publisher Salah Abassi told Israeli public radio on Monday that authorities ordered him to stop importing Arabic-language children’s books from the two longtime foes of Israel.

The ban includes translations of such books as Pinocchio and Harry Potter as well as Arabic classics.

“The trade and industry ministry and treasury warned me that importing those books is illegal,” said Abassi, who imported the books through Jordan.

The ban is based on a decree from 1939 – when the area was under British mandate – prohibiting the importation of books from countries that are at war with Israel. Abassi told the Maariv daily most of the books can be found only in Lebanon and Syria.

“If they were printed in Jordan or Egypt, which are friendly to Israel, I would lose no time in buying them there. Now the significance is that the Arabic reading public in Israel will not be able to enjoy the best literature,” he said. [source]

I have to admit, I’m very interested in this decree that dates all the way back to 1939. It has a cultural-warfare quality to it that you don’t see much of these days; it’s mostly missiles, guns and tanks, as opposed to literature.

Anyways, I should point out that Harry Potter is still a big thing in the Arab world apparently. I believe this is the official Arabic-Harry Potter website, that is complete with forums for discussion, the e-books, and even information on the spells used. Although it should be pointed out that in many Islamic circles, the book is still considered “haram”.

11 thoughts on “The Arabized Harry Potter Gets Banned

  1. On another note, the banning of literature from “warring countries” (specifically Lebanon) also has a profound impact on the Arab Christians in Israel, since most of the Christian spiritual/theological books printed in the ME come from Lebanon. It can be very hard for those wishing to study in their native language. They have to resort to books in English, and when you are learning about something as complicated as theology of the Christian faith, it is SO hard for them.

  2. Harry Potter actually doesn’t seem that big in the Arab world–when I was reading an Arabic copy in Jordan none of the Jordanians I talked to had heard of it, but I know this wasn’t the case in all of Asia since all the Taiwanese students in my class became very excited when they saw what I was reading and told me they were dying to get their hands on one. I’ve always wondered idly why HP is less popular in the Arab world than elsewhere.

  3. Not sure how old that law is but Lebanon has a similar one for goods coming from Israel whether they were manufactured by Israelis or Palestinians makes no difference.

  4. Many Christians in America hate Harry Potter because it deals with magic.

    “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
    Exodus 22:18 (King James Bible)

    Since this is what it says in the Torah is not Harry Potter against Jews, Christians, and Muslims? I am an agnostic.

  5. It seems that no one has thought to point out that in 1939 Israel DID NOT EXIST!!!!

    when israel formed it adopted the pre-existing laws from the british mandate (which, itself included some holdover laws from the ottoman period). that’s actually what typically happens when there is a new country. the u.s., for example, adopted british common law in 1776. it’s simply easier to adopt an existing legal system (and then start passing laws to amend it) than to build one from scratch all at once. when i went to law school in the u.s., we read cases from 16th century britain that are still technically binding precedent in the u.s. today.

    adopting the pre-existing system is also better for business (ongoing contracts don’t become void, but rather can operate under the same laws that formed them). also, if a new country scrapped all prior laws and tried to pass new ones, it would mean that during the period the new laws were being drafted things like murder and robbery would theoretically be legal. so it’s not surprising at all that israel would still enforce a law that is older than the country itself.

    (of course, that doesn’t mean that i don’t think the law is stupid. banning books is always a bad idea IMHO)

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