School cancels ‘Aladdin Jr.’ play because of ’inaccurate, negative stereotyping of Arabic culture’

Westowne Elementary School in Catonsville, Maryland, will not host a production of Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” after some people complained that the play negatively portrayed Arabic culture, according to a WBAL-TV report on Tuesday.

What are the details?

The Baltimore County school’s drama club was planning on performing the show in February. The school held auditions for students in September.
Aladdin Jr.” — a kids’ play adapted from Disney’s “Aladdin” (1992) — is also based on the 2014 hit Broadway show.
The school announced the decision to cancel the production and their reasoning behind doing so.
Danette Zaghari-Mask, the mother of one student, said that the basis and content of the play upset her fourth-grade son.
“In the play, Arabs are described as barbaric — those are the exact words that are used,” Zaghari-Mask told WBAL. “And the actual play was very controversial apparently in the early ’90s.”
Zaghari-Mask’s son dropped out of the production of “Aladdin Jr.”
Zaghari-Mask, who is also an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that she and her son decided to speak out on the play.
“It was worth expressing his experience to the school, and we’re just so relieved that the school is considerate of diversity,” she added.

What did the school have to say about the show?

On Thursday, school principal J. Palmer Wilker sent a letter to parents of the children in the school’s drama club.
The letter read, “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,” the letter continued. “It is important that we make choices that resist negative stereotypes, promote understanding, and celebrate all people.”
Wilker’s communication added that the school — “after careful consideration” — decided to cancel the production of “Aladdin Jr.”
“Instead, the drama club will be producing an alternative theatrical production with a focus on fables to showcase the talents of our amazing students,” Wilker’s letter continued.

Did any other parents respond?

Wilker met with drama club parents and students on Monday.
One parent, Jessi Eberle, said that the school didn’t even ask the parents’ opinions on canceling the show.
“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,” Eberle told the station.
Another parent, Emily Shaw, supported the school’s decision.
“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,” Shaw said.
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