Dec 16, 2015

Religious parents want Harry Potter banned from the classroom because it 'glorifies witchcraft'

Javier Espinoza
The Telegraph
December 16, 2015

Religious parents at state schools have complaint Harry Potter glorifies witchcraft and want it banned from classrooms, the Government's tsar has revealed, as teachers should refuse to teach the subject if there are concerns.

The Government's behavioural tsar has said some parents – particularly of Evangelical Christian and Muslim backgrounds believe the children's book "normalises acts of magic" and that therefore it is exposing their children to the works of the devil.

Tom Bennett spoke of parents raising concerns as some Religious Studies teachers use the fantasy novel, which is not in the syllabus, as an example of a collection of books that tell a greater story, like the Bible.

Following his revelations, headteachers have said schools should address parents' concerns regarding Harry Potter and move away from teaching the story of the famous child magician.

Speaking at a City Hall event last month, Mr Bennett said: "Harry Potter deals with the occult. There are many parents who are uncomfortable with their children discussing or looking at or reading anything at all to do with the occult.

"For many parents, particularly of evangelical Christian backgrounds and sometimes of some Muslim backgrounds, the occult is not something which exists in fiction and fantasy, the occult is something which is a very living – [a] live part of their faith."

He added that this notion that Harry Potter was not fantasy "is quite a thing in some communities".

He explained: "We're talking about evangelical protestants, non-indigenous expressions of Christian faith [like], imported Afro-Caribbean Methodism.

Mr Bennett said some Religious Studies (RS) teachers resort to Harry Potter to explain a wider point in their classes. He said: "Teachers use all kinds of materials, including Harry Potter.

"I've seen RS teachers mention it as an example of a collection of books that makes a greater story arc (like the Bible), and children have made comments that they're not allowed to read them because they're the work of [the devil].

He said he has found this to be the case in primary and secondary schools in London.

He said: "[Parents] said they'd rather their children weren't exposed to literature or fiction which normalised or trivialised or even applauded or encouraged what they would regard as witchcraft."

But, he added, "robust" teachers "will reassure them that modern RE is not about advancing or supporting any one faith. It's about discussing matters of faith.

"And if a parent confronts a teacher and says 'I don't want them exposed to witchcraft', a good teacher will reassure them that exposing children to a broad range of cultural influences is the schools responsibility and we can't shirk that - in RE and beyond.

A spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "We'd suggest that teachers should explain that the books help develop language and creativity, and can help none readers (particularly boys) become interested in reading.

"If there are grounds for a parent to not want this taught (i.e. religious grounds) the teacher should be flexible in delivering their content, and come up with ways to provide an alternative for those pupils."

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