CANTONSVILLE, MD (WFLA/WBAL) – An elementary school in Baltimore County has cancelled their production of “Aladdin, Junior” due to complaints of negative stereotyping of Arab culture.
After the Westowne Elementary Drama Club started rehearsal for the play, one parent says her fourth grade son came home upset and humiliated.
“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,” said Danette Zaghari-Mask.
“Aladdin, Junior” is adapted from the popular 1992 Disney film “Aladdin.”
Zaghari-Mask’s son decided to drop out, but she also decided to speak out.
She’s an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“It was worth expressing his experience to the school and I’m just so, were so relieved that the school is considerate of diversity,” she said.
The school decided to cancel the play.
A letter to drama club parents said in part:
“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… 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.”
The school decided to perform “The Young Fables” instead.
“I think they did a really great job of explaining why they came to the decision that they came to, one of the parents explained that her child was extremely hurt by the depictions of his own culture and felt that a change needed to be made. So, I think it was definitely the best outcome,” said drama club parent Emily Shaw.
“And they’re saying we’re a community, but yet they didn’t even ask anyone, they just made this decision by themselves and it’s kind of disappointing,” said another parent, Jessi Eberle.
Parents said the school actually purchased the rights to the play and that they were told the school would be reimbursed.