Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has hit the streets of Tehran and one newspaper at least finds this a very disturbing event. From The Memri Blog:
Iranian Daily: Harry Potter, Billion-Dollar Zionist Project
In an article, the Iranian daily Kayhan, which is identified with Iranian Supreme Leader ‘Ali Khamenei, criticized Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry for approving the distribution of the new book in the “Harry Potter” series.
The paper said that “Harry Potter” was a Zionist project in which billions of dollars had been invested in order to disrupt the minds of young people.
Source: Kayhan, Iran, July 26, 2007
Now this is an entirely different brand of Harry Hating, no? A billion dollar Zionist project? Or is it just a different wrapping for the same package?
First, let’s note the irony (or is it just “absurdity”?) of a book laden with Christian themes and imagery being condemned by the agents of a mullah as Zionist. Now, no doubt the Israelis and the Zionist conspirators are clever, but would they think of using a Christian story “to disrupt the minds of young people” in revolutionary Tehran? Maybe they’re just covering their tracks…
Then, there’s the linkage made possible by this report that the Hogwarts Professor can make with his friends at LifeSite News. What, after all, is the difference between a make believe headline about letters proving that the Pope condemns Harry Potter and this blog entry that links a newspaper story with an Ayatollah? That’s right: the question mark — and the fact that I am not working a media agenda the week before a Potter novel is published.
And then, perhaps, there are the more substantial points lurking in here that reveal the common ground shared by Harry Haters like Richard Abanes, Harold Bloom, A. S. Byatt, Brjit Kjos, Life Site News, and the Iranian Supreme Leader ‘Ali Khamenei (or Kayhan).
(1) Though explicitly Christian in composition, the Harry Potter books are also decidedly anti-authoritarian, especially with respect to government, schools, and media. This would be threatening to those for whom religious, political, or academic position and authority are matters of self-identity. The ivory tower aesthetes, the anti-semite Semites, and scriptural fundamentalists can all get into the same bed on this one. They all have problems with libertarians and Ms. Rowling has been linked with that bunch of anarchists.
(2) Ms. Rowling is a “postmodern’s postmodern” in her resistance to all restrictive and exclusive metanarratives. This would include, it seems, the anti-metanarrative metanarrative of the politically correct regime, in which being against prejudicial thought becomes the discriminatory headware in a world-beyond-satire. It definitely means she has no time for the “lunatic fringe of her own religion” and their “back to the future” metanarrative that offers a throwback, lockstep belief system with all goods and evils clearly marked in black and white in reaction to the confusion and relativism of our times.
Her Harry Potter novels, in contrast, offer a “metanarrative of love,” essentially a Christianity without creeds, in which there is no constitutive “other” or class of people that are Samaritans by definition. Not Mudbloods, not Slytherins, not even Death Eaters or Ministry officials. Anyone capable of love or of just feeling remorse can be saved.
Who could this message offend? It’s a little bit like being against lynching or drunk driving. But to what I would call “regime postmoderns,” Ms. Rowling’s message has way too much religious symbolism and morality; their writer of choice is Philip Pullman whose anti-church and anti-god novels have the p.c. bad guys spot on. To culture warriors on the other side of the fence, the “anti-relativism, Leave It to Beaver” crowd, the stories don’t have enough explicitly Christian content or resounding morality (which is to say, “Filch punishment for rule breakers”); their strong preference is for Messrs. Tolkien and Lewis, whom they have pegged as Focus on the Family writers.
The ‘Ayatollah’? Like all the other Harry Haters, his newspaper (and I have to think he has as much to do with this announcement as Pope Benedict did with the Kuby Letters and LifeSite News’ use of those letters) uses Potter mania as an occasion to create another faith litmus strip and attack the enemies of the Islamic Revolution. Reading Harry Potter in Iran because of this pronouncement now means you’re a Zionist stooge — and the government agency in charge of policing these things is “soft on Zionism.” You can find similar litmus strips and condescension with name-calling in the various Harry Hating camps in the NY Times editorial office, various Christian ghettos, and in the better Ivory Towers.
With enemies like these, Ms. Rowling must be doing something right.
Your comments and corrections, please.