A school in Baltimore County, Maryland, has decided to cancel its upcoming production of Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” due to the play’s “negative stereotyping of Arabic culture.”
The Westowne Elementary had already held auditions for the play and started rehearsal for next year’s show when the school announced that the play has been scrapped, stating that it “is not the best fit for our Westowne community,” according to WBAL-TV channel 11 Tuesday. (RELATED: California High School Told They Have To Change Their Arab Mascot)
“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,” a statement to drama club parents from the school’s principal, J. Palmer Wilker, read. “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,” he added. “Instead, the drama club will be producing an alternative theatrical production with a focus on fables to showcase the talents of our amazing students.”
One mother, Danette Zaghari-Mask (an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations) told the station that her fourth-grade son came home upset and humiliated because Arabs are described as “barbaric.”
“In the play, Arabs are described as barbaric — those are the exact words that are used. And the actual play was very controversial apparently in the early ’90s,” Zaghari-Mask explained. “It was worth expressing his experience to the school, and were just so relieved that the school is considerate of diversity.”
“I think they did a really great job of explaining why they came to the decision they came to. I think it was definitely the best outcome,” one parent, Emily Shaw said.
But while some parents were okay with the decision, others were not.
“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,” another parent, Jessi Eberle shared.
“Aladdin Jr.” is adapted from the hit Disney animated film “Aladdin” that came out in 1992, with Robin Williams playing the Genie.
Instead, now, the drama club has opted to perform “The Young Fables.”