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 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”.