Calif. Arab sparks debate over ethnic mascots

December 2, 2013

 

LOS ANGELES — On game days in Thermal, where date farms and desert surroundings evoke the Middle East and nearby communities have names like Mecca and Oasis, fans cheer a high school team known as the Arabs. A belly dancer jiggles on center court. And a black-haired, mustached mascot wearing a head scarf rallies the crowd.

At least that’s the way it was done for decades in the community 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles until Arab-Americans recently objected to a hook-nosed, snarling image used to represent Coachella Valley High School.

The school has agreed to give the mascot a makeover, but not to drop the nickname.

“We’re still going to stick with the Arab,” said school board president Lowell Kemper after scores of residents defended the tradition dating back generations. “It’s just a matter of whether we have a change in the caricature of the mascot.”

But the Arab debate spurs the same set of questions: Is it possible to craft a mascot in the image of an ethnic group that doesn’t offend, or are schools better off scrapping the idea altogether?

The debate comes as the more familiar Indian controversy has gained increased heat.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee complained last month that the Coachella Valley mascot perpetuates negative stereotypes of Arabs and Arab-Americans after one of its members raised questions about the image.

The move prompted a community-wide debate and the school district formed a committee to redesign the mascot in a more flattering light.

Coachella Valley isn’t alone in invoking images of Arabs or Muslims. In the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, the high school football team, known as the Moors, features a caricature of a scowling, dark-skinned man with two swords on its Facebook page.

Yasmin Nouh, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in greater Los Angeles, said her group was going to speak with the school.

At Coachella Valley, the Arab’s image has evolved. He was once depicted riding on horseback while carrying a spear, later changed to the surly caricature plastered on the school gym’s wall.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/calif-arab-sparks-debate-over-ethnic-mascots/2013/12/02/266539d0-5b89-11e3-801f-1f90bf692c9b_story.html

Spain recognizes Morisco population

The Spanish parliament will vote on an initiative to recognize the injustice done to the Moors expelled from the country 400 years ago. The non-legislative proposal asks the government to take action to strengthen economic, social and cultural ties to the descendants of the Moors expelled from Spanish territory in the seventeenth century.

The proposal comes after a request by the Islamic Board to this effect in 2007, and is based on a precedent set by the country’s recognition of the Sephardim. The Spanish Federation of Muslims in Spain called the proposal a “positive step”, Europa Press reports.

Moorish historians want Spain to apologize upon the 400th anniversary of expulsion from Spain

400 years after King Philip III signed an order to expel 300,000 Moriscos – or part-Muslims who had converted from Islam to Christianity, some Muslim writers, Spanish and Moroccan campaigners are asking Madrid to apologize for the wrongs committed during the 17th century.

The anniversary highlights the uneasy relationship that still exists between modern-day Spanish and its Moorish, or Muslim past. Historians record the brutal conditions in which many were killed during forced resettlement in North Africa, and have urged the Spanish government to use the anniversary of the event to make overtures to the Islamic world. José Manuel Fajardo, a Spanish writer, said: “Mr. Zapatero has an opportunity to transform one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Spain into an opportunity for a re-encounter between the West and Islam.”

A spokesperson for the government said that there are no plans to mark the anniversary. The defeat of the Moors in 1492 and the expulsion of Moriscos from 17th century Spain is still a politically sensitive subject, with Osama bin Laden referring it in repeated calls for the restoration of al-Andalus – the former Muslim kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula.

Toning Down the “Reconquista”

Spanish villages are toning down traditional fiestas in which revelers blow up dummies representing the Prophet Mohammed for fear of offending Muslims, the newspaper El Pais reported on Monday. One eastern Spanish village, Bocairent, decided to abandon the custom of packing the head of a dummy representing Mohammed with fireworks after seeing the angry response by Muslims to a Danish newspaper’s publication last year of cartoons of him. El Pais found that several other villages in the Valencia region had also modified similar fiestas this year. It carried out the investigation after a Berlin opera house decided last week to cancel performances of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” because the production included a scene depicting Mohammed’s severed head. Bocairent’s mayor, Antonio Valdes, said blowing up the Mohammed dummy was offensive. “It just wasn’t necessary, and, as it could hurt some people’s feelings, we decided not to do it,” he said. The village may not have blown up the wood-and-cardboard Mohammed dummy this year — but it still threw it off a castle wall at the fiesta’s climax in February. Villages all over Spain hold annual festivals to commemorate the “Reconquista,” the reconquest of Spain by Christians from the Moors, which was completed in 1492 after more than 700 years of Muslim rule in much of the country. Spain is now once again home to a growing number of Muslims, mainly Moroccan immigrants, who villagers feel might be offended by some of their traditional celebrations.