One Equal World

Hollywood Wants to White-Wash a Celebrated Muslim Poet

Posted on: June 30, 2016

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Jalaluddin al-Rumi was a 13th Century Muslim poet. Considered as one of the best poets who ever lived, he’s still praised today, even among non-Muslims. That’s why David Franzoni, the writer of Gladiator, wants to make a film about him. According to Franzoni, such a film would challenge the way Muslims are usually portrayed in western cinema.

That’s a laudable goal, and one that many people could get behind, normally. But in typical, tone-deaf, racist Hollywood fashion, who’s the studio’s first pick for the actor to play Rumi? Leonardo DiCaprio.

Let that sink in for a second. These filmmakers want to “challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters” by making a movie about a poet born in what is today Afghanistan and who died in what is now Turkey, and they want to cast a white man to play him. And, they want to cast another white man, Robert Downey Jr., to play the mysterious mystic Shams of Tabriz, who played an important role in Rumi’s life.

Understandably, people on Twitter are already up in arms about this. We don’t even know if the actors have been approached. But the fact that their first thought was “cast famous white men” instead of “find actors of Middle-Eastern descent to play these important men from the Middle-East” is indicative of just how endemic white-washing Hollywood is.

And this comes after the backlash to white-washing characters in upcoming films based on Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell. These are actual historical figures that are being cast, not fictional characters. This is attempted white-washing on an entirely more vile level, and begs the question: are Hollywood producers that racist, or are they just that stupid?

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