'Aladdin Jr.' canceled at Catonsville elementary school after complaints about stereotyping

A Baltimore County school has canceled a planned production of “Aladdin Jr.” after complaints that the play stereotypes Arab culture.

In a letter to parents, J. Palmer Walker, principal of Catonsville’s Westowne Elementary School, said administrators had received “pushback from parents concerned about controversial tropes and inaccurate portrayal of different characters.”

One parent was Danette Zaghari-Mask, who said her 9-year-old son, an Arab-American student in fourth grade at the school, was upset by the language in the text when he auditioned for the play. In the opening lines, the play refers to the “barbaric” Arab lands.

In contrast, Zaghari-Mask said, a forthcoming “Aladdin” film — out next year — was made with consultation from Arab-Americans to eliminate offensive stereotypes.

Zaghari-Mask, a lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said she voiced her concerns about the play to other parents and to the school, which decided to scrap it. Instead, the school’s drama club will put on a play that focuses on fables.

CAIR issued a statement that applauded the school’s decision.

Though some other Westowne parents have complained online about an excess of political correctness, Zaghari-Mask said most people she’s spoken to have been supportive.

“We’re just really glad that our school is really adamant about creating a safe space for all of the students,” she said.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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