I went to the library to check out a book yesterday and there was an excellent display about books the were banned. I was confounded, these were books I had read as a teen, and they shaped the questions I asked of society.
Almost all of these books would now be considered enlightened reading. There were some shocking ones, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but most shocking was Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird. This book taught me an important lesson, the wrong in harming innocent and vulnerable people. Be they poor, weak, defenseless, old etc… it just is unfathomable to consciously hurt someone who does not deserve it.
The title of the novel alerts us to the importance of this theme. It comes from an old proverb that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. The children first hear this from Atticus, when he gives them air rifles as Christmas presents (Chapter 10). He tells them they should shoot only at tin-cans but, seeing that they may well shoot birds, allows them to shoot the very common bluejay but not mockingbirds. Scout is puzzled by this remark and asks her teacher who says: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, they don’t nest in corn-cribs they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. ”
The mockingbird of the proverb is a harmless creature which does its best to please its hearers by singing, but which is defenseless against hunters. The wrongness of killing the bird is evident. Why would this book be banned? The other question then is, who is to decide who deserves get what is coming to them – or who deserves to be hurt?
Following is a chart about why and by who books are usually challenged to be placed on the banned list.
If we live by the simple principle that all religions teach, do unto others what you would want for yourself there would be no problem. The Quran tells us: ‘Not a word does he (or she) utter but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it)’ [50:18]. Imam al-Shafa’i understood the hadeeth (narration) to mean that if a person wants to say something, he should think about it: if it seems to him that it will not do any harm, then he should speak, but if he thinks that it will do some harm or he thinks that this is most likely, then he should refrain from speaking.” Very straightforward I would say.