Monday, May 14, 2012
A while back, MuslimMatters had an interesting article about some beneficial teachings that could be gleaned from the Harry Potter books. Although the author did a commendable job in extracting positive lessons found throughout the series, it was nonetheless quite an unnecessary stretch, especially when there are countless more appropriate, less controversial sources for these same teachings.
To make matters worse, the ensuing comment thread found the proto-typical overly-simplistic Muslim approach of condemning the Harry Potter series as completely Haram based on its ‘glamorization’ of magic.
As for me, I believe both approaches missed the boat on the real dangers found in the Harry Potter series and other books of this genre.
Let me start by saying that it’s not the magic. I don’t believe for one second that young children will begin dabbling in sorcery or witchcraft upon reading Harry Potter. I don’t even believe they will think magic to be inconsequential in our deen, as some commenters in the MM article alleged. Black magic will remain black magic – a completely forbidden act in Islamic teachings – and those who delve into it will do so whether they read Harry Potter or not.
Such fears are akin to a child reading the classic Treasure Island, chock-full of references of sailors getting drunk, and worrying about them wishing to get drunk – or at the least, thinking alcohol to be ‘no big deal’.
Maybe I’m being naïve, but I just don’t see that happening.
Similarly, I’m not afraid of my daughter picking up a bow and arrow and hunting down children in the neighborhood, Hunger Games-style. I think she realizes murder is bad.
The real danger in exposing our children to modern-day popular literature is the more subtle, insidious messages found throughout these books. It’s these messages that affect the subconscious. It’s these threads that change personalities.
I’m more troubled by the disrespect Katniss, the Hunger Games protagonist, consistently shows towards her mother. I’m bothered by the selfish decisions she constantly makes with little regard for others. It’s the individualistic ‘me-myself-and-I’ attitude that is found throughout the Hunger Games series that worries me.
Look, I understand that modern Western literature is merely going to reflect modern Western values. In essence, that’s where my grievance stems from. These books are exposing our children to foreign values and morals that are inconsistent with the standards my wife and I are trying to establish in our home.
Too many of us parents are so ecstatic that our children are reading (as opposed to watching TV or surfing the Net) that we aren’t paying attention to the subtle ideals promoted within these books. Many of the books targeting modern-day teenagers contain dominant streams of feminist notions, individualistic thought, and material gluttony while concurrently disparaging religion and tradition and disrespecting elders.
Unfortunately there is great dearth of modern English literature written for the today’s Muslim youth. That’s why I’ve basically relegated myself to sticking to classical texts which maintain a respectable sense of traditional values more in-line with Islamic teachings. Fortunately, my daughter has shown a great deal of interest in these books, but at the same time, she is a product of her times and is constantly tempted by the popularity of Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and the like.
It’s a fine line we’re treading here and I’m sincerely praying that an Islamically stable home and a pseudo-Islamic environment (living in Saudi) peppered with classical works and good, solid friends will be enough to temper the ill-effects of modern media.