We've got some good news and some bad news. Ready?
The good news is, after decades of producing films portraying Muslims in a narrow range of negative roles (the terrorist, the reformed terrorist, the terrorist’s wife, the terrorist’s friend…) Hollywood is finally working on a positive film about a Muslim character: famed mystic, scholar, and poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi.
But here's the bad news: producers are planning to cast white actors to portray Rumi and his companions, reportedly considering Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role.1
This whitewashing would effectively strip Rumi of his identities as a Muslim and a migrant from modern-day Afghanistan.
We have to let the producers know that we won't support such a film.
While we spend a lot of time fighting on policies and the issues, we also know that popular culture that demonizes Muslims and folks from the Middle East plays a huge role in perpetuating Islamophobia.
And producers have no problem casting non-white actors for negative roles. For instance, this film will reportedly portray the Mongols as “[rampaging] extremists”—roles that will undoubtedly be filled by actors of color.
If the film's writers and producers are truly committed to challenging stereotypes, they should commit to portraying Rumi as he was—a Muslim scholar and poet from modern-day Afghanistan—not in a whitewashed form to make him more palatable for viewers with anti-Muslim bias.
Sign our petition today to let the producers know that #RumiWasntWhite.
1. "Rumi film will challenge Muslim stereotypes, says Gladiator writer," The Guardian, Jun 6, 2016