(BALTIMORE, MD, 10/19/18) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a decision by a Maryland public school in Baltimore County to cancel a school play that perpetuates and reinforces racist stereotypes about Arabs.
The Westowne Elementary School’s Drama Club had previously selected Disney’s ”˜Aladdin, Jr.’ as its production of choice for this school year. However, after receiving pushback from parents concerned about controversial tropes and the inaccurate portrayal of different characters, school administrators made the decision this week to substitute it with a different play.
In a statement to its Drama Club parents, Principal J. Palmer Walker said:
“Recently, it has been brought to our attention that Disney’s Aladdin Jr. has historically been criticized for its inaccurate, negative stereotyping of Arabic culture. Here at Westowne, we want to cultivate students who have a strong self-image, appreciation, and respect for other cultures. It is important that we make choices that resist negative stereotypes, promote understanding, and celebrate all people. After careful consideration and with input from the perspectives of many stakeholders–teachers, parents, and community members–we decided that this production of Aladdin Jr. is not the best fit for our Westowne community. Instead, the drama club will be producing an alternative theatrical production with a focus on fables to showcase the talents of our amazing students.”
“We are relieved for our son; and as well, for all the children,” said Westowne ES parent Danette Zaghari-Mask, a non-profit attorney at CAIR. “Our youth and school officials are learning lessons and modeling problem-solving skills that will extend far beyond this moment. As a community, we must have the courage to live our values even when it is not the easy thing to do.”
“CAIR commends Mr. Walker and school administrators for taking a principled decision that truly reflects their commitment to inclusivity and diversity and turning this incident into a teachable moment,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry.
CAIR’s 2018 Civil Rights Report, ”˜Targeted’, the organization recorded a 17 percent increase in bias-motivated incidents against Muslim Americans from 2016-17, and a 15 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same time period.
A study done by CAIR’s California chapter reported that more than half of American Muslim students experience some form of bullying based on their religious identity. This is twice the national average for students who report being bullied at school.
SEE: 2017 CAIR-CA Bullying Report
Data shows cases of anti-Muslim bullying in schools on the rise
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights advocacy organization is also calling for diversity training for all school staff using CAIR’s “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices”, which is designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.
SEE: An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misiÃ³n de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensiÃ³n del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry, 410-971-6062, email@example.com