Sacha Baron Cohen has courted controversy over the last couple weeks, first by campaigning to attend the Oscars as his character from The Dictator – Admiral General Aladeen from the fictional Republic of Wadiya – and then by dumping a fake urn of ashes on Ryan Seacrest at the ceremony.
But the National Network for Arab American Communities is taking issue with the actor for a very different reason.
In an Op-Ed for The Huffington Post, Director Nadia Tonova slams Cohen for the “damaging lunacy” of this portrayal, arguing that it perpetuates dangerous stereotypes.
“Arabs are among the few cultures that Hollywood still exploits with impunity,” Tonova writes. “Routinely, we are profiled as unsavory or sultry characters – generally terrorists, dictators, sheikhs, oil tycoons or Bedouins. But it’s not just Hollywood that perpetuates this imagery.
“These stereotypes are promoted through the media, law enforcement, our courts, legislatures, Congress and our political candidates. They become an ugly message that trickles down to the general public: Arabs and Muslims are untrustworthy; they are un-American; they are… fill the blank.”
She quotes late Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren to conclude her argument:
“It should be remembered that practically all aliens have come to this country because they like our land and our institutions better than those from whence they came…We must see to it that no race prejudices develop and that there are no petty persecutions of law-abiding people.”
What do you think of Cohen’s Arab portrayal in the movie?