A Maryland elementary school canceled its performance of the play Aladdin Jr. over fears that it “stereotypes” Arabs.
The drama club at Westowne Elementary School of Catonsville, Maryland, had planned to stage the play based on the hit 1992 Disney film in February.
The school made its decision and announced the cancelation of the production during a meeting with parents on October 22, but the announcement met with mixed reviews.
One parent, who is of Middle Eastern descent, said her son was “humiliated” by the play. Danette Zaghari-Mask claimed that Arabs are called “barbaric” in the play.
Being a member of the Muslim activist group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Zaghari-Mask immediately made a cause over the play.
“It was worth expressing his experience to the school and were just so relieved that the school is considerate of diversity,” Zaghari-Mask said according to WBAL.
After the Muslim activist made a stink over the play, the school decided to cancel the production.
In a letter sent to parents, Principal J. Palmer Wilker said the play was canceled to protect kids’ “self-image.”
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.
Aladdin Jr. will be replaced by a production of The Young Fables, the school reported.
Not all parents agreed with the move.
Parent Jessi Eberle noted that the school did not consult parents. “They’re saying we’re a community, but they didn’t even ask anyone. They just made this decision by themselves and it’s kind of disappointing,” she said.
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