Shared Text Alert: Terrorists Love Hogwarts Saga?

According to a recent AP article, former child soldier and Al-Qaeda militant Omar Khadr is something of a Harry Potter fan.  Khadr, described in several articles as a rage-filled, cold-blooded killer, apparently enjoys reading the books, which begs the question: Does someone who so clearly exhibits only intolerance for anyone who does not share his beliefs really “get it” if he considers himself a fan? Does he not see that the Order of the Phoenix members would all fall under the category of personae non gratia in his worldview? Or does he see those who disagree with him as the evil Ministry of Magic?  What seems really interesting, though, is the way the media keeps tossing out Khadr’s reading of HP. On one level, the references are probably just meant to emphasize the irony of the situation: terrorist who reads the popular, epitome-of-Western-Culture books loved by millions, isn’t that bizarre?

The way that Khadr’s reading habits are mentioned in this particular article, though, shows a new “shared text” trend. Once upon a time, if a writer wanted to cast aspersions upon an individual’s education or reading habits, he would write that the subject read only comic books. Now our own Hogwarts Saga seems to have taken that spot once held by the funny books. As early as 2001, the film America’s Sweethearts took the same swipe, with a ditzy actress, upon being accused of near illiteracy, claiming that she has, in fact, read all the Harry Potter books. So nearly as baffling as what Khadr sees in Harry is what many newspaper folks and screenwriters apparently don’t: Rowling’s novels are rich, multi-layered texts that resonate with modern readers and provide both pleasure and edification. These writers seem determined to consider Harry kids’  stuff for the barely literate, on the same level as the comics. So maybe it’s the folks making these disparaging comments who don’t get it, or they would have noticed that even though comic books have their redeeming qualities, Harry is in a class (and not just Defense against the Dark Arts) all by himself.


  1. Rock ON, Mrs. Hardy. Thank you for your superb insight and articulation; it is extremely helpful and valued.

  2. Very nice that he enjoyed the books,I hope that he will learn something from them, not holding my breath however.
    I think however it is an attempt by the media, to make this fellow a bit more cuddly and less threatening.
    Possibly posturing by his legal team to have him engage in activities that are the norm for young people everywhere.

  3. I would urge the original poster to get hold of the Terminus compendium and read the very thought-provoking essay on exactly this issue. It’s moving and heart-breaking. I’d also point to the word “alleged”. Khadr was 15 when he was imprisoned and he was never, to my knowledge, given a trial. Anyone forced – or brainwashed – into being a child soldier deserves our mercy and compassion, no matter how terrible their acts.

    My two cents.

  4. Thank you for mentioning Kathleen McConnell’s article (for those who missed Terminus and don’t have that compendium, it is available on amazon.) The plight of child soliders is indeed tragic, and the purpose of this post is not, in any way, to diminish that plight or even to open the can of worms it entails, but merely to note the peculiar trend journalists have continued to exhibit in frequently mentioning Khadr’s HP reading. It would be equally interesting if the subject were a troubled Hollywood drug addict, accused serial killer, or any other high-profile inmate. D.V.. I also wondered if this wasn’t the idea of legal handlers trying to make their client more accessible. Certainly anyone who is defending such an incendiary client would want to emphasize both his troubled youth and his humanity. One might hope that trips to Hogwarts would be edifying and transformative, but that may be expecting a bit much.

  5. Louise M. Freeman says

    It would be fascinating to know if he can in any way identify with Regulus or Sirius Black, who actively rejected the hate they were exposed to as youth, or Draco, who in the in was so horrified by the acts in which he was participating that he turned away from them, even if not to the good side.

    Of course the odds of us every knowing what truly happened to his young man, at the hands of his family, the Taliban or the US military are essentially nil.

  6. I can’t say this is all that surprising. If people can say “I love the Bible” and commit all sorts of terrible acts in spite of that “love,” they can do it with Harry Potter. I think it says more about the person reading the book than it does about the book itself.

  7. It is an interesting phenomena. However, I’m not sure that I would come to the same conclusion from it that you did. As John has shown, Harry Potter has many layers of meaning and has a well crafted, detailed structure. However, the books are also easily accessible. Most of the people who read the series never see even a small fraction of what Ms. Rowling built into the series.

    I would argue that there are many people who are only marginally literate but yet they read and enjoyed Harry Potter. I think that is one of the most amazing things about Ms. Rowlings accomplishment. She built a saga that is quickly becoming a classic in literature. Yet she wrote it in a way that it captivates and draws in even people who don’t normally read.

  8. Mr President says

    Just a word of advise. When you find that you only have about 150 pages to go – take a break. I couldn’t tear my eyes away long enough to look at the clock, reach for my water, or run to the bathroom.

    Many people scratch their heads because the huge success of this series is such a mysterious phenomenon. Well, I think the reason is that she really writes PEOPLE. You can have a great plot line, great adventures, keep people guessing and still have a mediocre book. But Rowling writes great characters and wonderfully expresses their thoughts and feelings. This is why I usually end up in tears somewhere in the last 100 pages of every book.

Speak Your Mind