Hating Harry?

To many, Harry Potter is a magical hero. To more than you'd think, he's spreading the 'poison of witchcraft'

Opinion

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By SUSY SCHULTZ

It's hard to think Harry Potter inspires hatred with anyone other than the evil Lord Voldemort.

Yet, it's true. Some people hate Harry Potter.

If you don't know, Potter is the hero in a popular series of books written by J.K. Rowling, which first debuted in 1997. The books follow the orphaned wizard-child Potter as he discovers he is a witch (who knew?) and then during his seven years attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Each book covers one school year in Harry's life. Seven are expected, and so far, there have been five. One minute after 11:59 p.m. July 15, the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will be released.

Potter is an occasion in Oak Park because we are lucky enough to have the Magic Tree Bookstore, which two years ago hosted the premier launching party in the country for the fifth book. They set the bar for the Potter parties. And on Friday, the Magic Tree and so many others will be part of the more than 22 events scheduled by this launch's host, the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It is wonderful to see so many people excited about a book.

Potter is a star to some. But to others, this half-breed witch is dangerous. True, Rowling's book has topped numerous best seller lists around the world, but did you know it has also topped the lists of the American Library Association's Most Frequently Challenged Books for at least four of the last six years?

A challenge is the first formal step on the road to banning a book, which means a lot of people want this book out of public libraries and schools, according to Larra Clark, spokesperson for the association.

But why ban wonderful, magical Harry Potter? Precisely because Potter is magical.

The very essence of what makes these books a wonderful adventure is why some people take great offense. Apparently, according to some, being magical means Potter is no Christian. This young man is evil incarnate, despite the fact he has fought to protect the weak, bravely beaten down evil in incredibly intimidating forms and waged a battle against prejudice by fighting an established ethnocentric societal belief that diversity in witches is wrong.

Indeed, to some, Potter's witchcraft signals he is the spawn of Satan, or at least a plot born from Satan to destroy children. Could I make this up?

This is not new. Many of you may already know this. But on the eve of the next book release, I think it bears repeating.

"The most common reason for the challenges has to do with his witchcraft," said Clark.

Harry is a witch?#34;-no way around that one. But is he a good witch or a bad witch? And is there a difference? Not according to way too many books and websites devoted to pointing out the evil that is Harry Potter.

"There are many books out about Witchcraft but none so cleverly packaged like the latest," reads a website dedicated to stopping Satanism (and no, I'm not going to give the address because I don't really want to increase traffic for the site.) It continues: "Satan is up to his old tricks again and the main focus is the children of the world. The latest craze is a series of books by author J. K. Rowling, known as Harry Potter." Rather than harmless fantasy, this site refers to the books as laced "with the poison of witchcraft."

And I thought it was just a good read.

"We get people who are vehement in their feelings against Harry Potter," said Zena Paice, book buyer for Logos Bookstore in Oak Park, a Christian bookstore that sells the Potter books "But, the first thing I ask people who complain that we carry Harry Potter is, 'Have you read the books?' and the most common answer is, 'No.'"

Is anyone surprised? When you want to spew hate, facts usually get in the way.

"I am a fundamentalist Christian myself and I have a very open mind," Paice said. "I find a spiritual message in Harry Potter. Actually, I find God in Harry Potter."

And not surprisingly, many other Christians do too. In fact, Logos carries a number of titles outlining how Potter is closer to Jesus Christ than to Satan because he triumphs over evil and fights against bullies. Two things, that the last time I checked, were not part of Satan's platform.

Most book industry people already know that this new book will land Rowling solidly back on the best seller lists, where her books have set records. But Clark said the library association is interested to see if it will also put Rowling back at the top of the challenge list.

It probably will. Because as Paice said, while it is Logos' mission to carry books that uplift spirituality and never belittle anyone else's beliefs, that is not always the mission of others. "If you are looking for evil you can find it anywhere," she said.

Count on me to be one of the millions buried in the Potter evil by 12:01 a.m.

Susy Schultz lives in Oak Park and is associate publisher and editor of Chicago Parent magazine, a sister publication of Wednesday Journal.

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