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Posted by on Aug 8, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Terrorist suspects at Guantanamo love Harry Potter

Guess who’s near the top of the request list for books among prisoners at Guantanamo:

Lori, who for two years has overseen the detention center’s library, said J.K. Rowling’s tales about the boy wizard are on top of the request list for the camp’s 520 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, followed by Agatha Christie whodunits.

“We’ve got a few who are kind of hooked on it. A couple have asked if they can see the movie,” said Lori, a civilian contractor who asked that her last name not be publicized.

It’s part of a prison policy that makes available several classes of books, but I wonder why the government is ordering its Korans from this particular country:

Most of the Muslim holy books are printed in Saudi Arabia at the King Fahd Holy Koran Printing Complex. There, Islamic clerics ensure that each edition faithfully translates the words of the prophet Muhammad.

Once the shipment arrives, Lori said, the prison staff then screens them. Saudi Arabia is the hub for extreme teachings of Wahhabism’s version of Islam. Some Korans are printed with Wahhabi commentary. But those editions are not allowed at Guantanamo.

“We only buy the Koran,” Lori said. “The Koran is the Koran is the Koran. There is no Wahhabi version. You can buy a Koran with commentary. We do not purchase the Koran with commentary. The reason we do not do that is we would end up with Wahhabi interpretations.”

Still, that doesn’t help the U.S. image of fostering a peaceful and tolerant Islam – buying holy books from the country whose extreme and heavily evangelistic version of the faith has driven terrorists across the globe. Can’t we buy Korans from a relatively moderate Muslim country? How about Turkey? This is also questionable:

The library bans certain book categories, such as ones that deal in political thought.

“We try to keep people calm and not incite riots,” Lori said.

Sure, entertain the prisoners with murder mysteries and contemplative titles, but deny them the works that inspired and followed the American revolution? What could be the harm in giving them access to John Locke, or Alexis de Tocqueville, or the Federalist Papers? If they already hate Western-style democracy, letting them read the Western classics won’t push them any farther. Wouldn’t it be great to see some of these prisoners released on good behavior and become political reformers in their own country?