The Coachella Valley High School mascot of a scowling Arab in a traditional headdress has come under fire by Arab-Americans, who have asked the school to reconsider the image it portrays.
The mascot has been part of the Southern California school since 1910.
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The school board has agreed to discuss the matter at an upcoming meeting, the New York Daily News said
Al Jazeera America reported that the high school campus is decorated with numerous Arab-themed murals,
including one of an Arab man and woman flying on a “magic carpet” that’s a book. It leads to the school’s library entrance.
Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Al Jazeera that the school’s use of the imagery, much of which is women dressed in harem-styled clothing, is the most extreme case of stereotyping he’s seen.
“The mascot is basically an angry ‘Arab’ head – hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all,” Ayoub told Al Jazeera, and he called the images Orientalism, which is considered the practice of depicting Eastern societies as inferior.
“And what makes it worse is that it's coming from a school district,” he said. “They’re supposed to be teaching kids to respect other cultures.”
Ayoub told the Daily News that he appreciates the sensitivity the school district is showing and plans to work with them on the issue.
Al Jazeera reported that the California community in Coachella Valley has been fascinated with the eastern Arab cultures for decades, starting with the agricultural crops that it grows, including dates. People in the area said the portrayals aren’t meant to be offensive.
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