x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Journalist and social activist Jack Shaheen dies at 81

Shaheen was most famously known for being the author of the book Reel Bad Arabs which explored the (usually negative) representation of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood culture

Jack Shaheen went beyond dissecting negative portrayals of Arab-Americans into lobbying against them. Courtesy Jack Shaheen
Jack Shaheen went beyond dissecting negative portrayals of Arab-Americans into lobbying against them. Courtesy Jack Shaheen

Author, academic, journalist and social activist Jack Shaheen has passed away aged 81. His family have confirmed the news, although no details of the cause of death have as yet been announced.

Shaheen was a former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs, Professor of Communications at Southern Illinois University, occasional contributor to The National and, perhaps most famously, author of the book Reel Bad Arabs which explored the (usually negative) representation of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood culture. The book was also turned into a documentary in 2006 by Sut Jhally with Sheehan's support.

Shaheen dedicated his life to exploring, exposing, and addressing racial stereotypes in the media and popular culture, particularly regarding this region. Perhaps his highest profile victory came in 1993 when he was a key figure in the successful campaign to persuade Disney to change the lyrics to a song in Aladdin. The original lyrics had included the lines:

“Where they cut off your ear

If they don't like your face

It's barbaric, but hey, it's home."

Shaheen argued in an op-ed in the LA Times that “Walt Disney's "Aladdin" is not an entertaining Arabian Nights fantasy as film critics would have us believe but rather a painful reminder to three million Americans of Arab heritage, as well as 300 million Arabs and others, that the abhorrent Arab stereotype is as ubiquitous as Aladdin's lamp.”

Shaheen is survived by his wife of 51 years, Bernice, and their two children.

READ MORE OF JACK SHAHEEN WORK: