Monday, August 25, 2008

"Towelhead"- is a racial/religious slur?


Salaam Buddies! Ramadan is just around the corner and it seems that we might be loosing some steam?! No way! Remember "Faith in Action" we never run/turn/put our heads in the sand!

Which brings me to a question- Do you consider "TOWELHEAD" a religious/racial slur? Is it akin to calling someone a "heeb" (Jewish people), "nigger"- please you get the picture right?

The reason I ask this is because I am stuck in a bit of a moral dilemma. Its a moral dilemma because I can understand both sides of the argument and can not really be persuaded to take a side. Obviously as a kid growing up during the Gulf War (first one), there were numerous times I was called this along with the other not so pleasant epithets. I have a bit of a difficult time when people use this term to describe people, however, when used in a "artistic"- if one may call it that- way I do not seem to have issue with it. I do go with the consensus at CAIR, however, I wanted to get some of your opinions on it.

This conversation comes up due to a recent flap with Warner Brothers Entertainment and their issueing of a movie that was named after a book by the title of "Towelhead".

There is a lot more to add to this...trust me but I have little time right now so share your thoughts as it may help me put together a more complete analysis of all this.

Thanks,

Affad

9 comments:

Huda Shaka` said...

Yes, I definately consider it a racial/religious slur - glad someone is doing something about the movie title.

Nadia said...

1) I do think its a racial slur.
2) I'm not offended about the title of the movie. When I heard about this controversy, I went to IMDb to see what it was about - which is partly about struggling with racism as an Arab growing up in the US. Since that's the context of the movie, I completely understand the reason for the title. The author of the book from which the movie title is taken is an Arab who used that title to highlight the intersection of racism and identity. It's kind of (a little bit) like the n-word in the context of rap. (But not completely.)

A recent counter-example I can think of is "The Love Guru" which a lot of Hindus found offensive. Guru is a revered person in Hindu culture, whereas in the movie Mike Myers was playing an over-sexualized, stereotypical portrayal of a "Guru." If "towelhead" had been a will ferrell movie, maybe I could understand complaining about the movie.

Words are important. However, context is important, too. Especially when there are so few Arab & Muslims artists out there and so few who speak about experiences about racism in US, I think it's important to support rather than stifle them.

That's just my opinion.

MetaMuslim said...

I find it similar to "Revenge of the Nerds." We nerds call ourselves nerds as a means of empowerment. I don't see a problem with the use of towelhead in this instance.

Btw, If you haven't seen any of the Revenge of the Nerds movies, you are missing out.

supreem said...

i honestly think it depends on the situation. I agree with nadia. but also, i'd every time someone called me a towel head, it just cracked me up, because as something to be demeaning, it doesn't make sense. I never saw how it could be insulting... when people ever called me a towel head or something to it's equivalent.. i just looked at them dead on in the face with a smile and said 'well at least i'm not ignorant'.

supreem said...

i would say no....

Anonymous said...

it doesnt just refer to arabs/muslims - they use the term for sikhs also - mainly those that work at 7-11 or the liquor stores -


http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=towelhead

Anonymous said...

how much different is calling a movie "towelhead" to calling an event at UCI "Auschwitz to Gaza" its all meant to stir peoples emotions and does very little to get people to have a discussion.

Anonymous said...

I wrote to cair regarding this issue, and they were very good about giving a response. Here is part of what I wrote:

" There is a long standing tradition in this country of minority communities, particularly writers and artists within those communities, appropriating words and ideas that are meant to be derogatory, thereby using those very same words as a form of dissent. The entire history of the "N" word and it's usage is probably the clearest example of this. There has to be a more nuanced approach in deciding which culprits to go after instead of simply raising the flag of discrimination any time certain "keywords" come up. The complex cultural issues at work here are the stuff of PHD dissertations, and there is no "one - size - fits - all" approach. We can very well end up alienating those who actually have good intentions and who may be allies to the Muslim community in one way or another...." We have to realize that in this context the word "towelhead" is used to HUMANIZE rather than dehumanize it's subject. You have to look at context and intentions, and not just the word itself, which is why I respecfully disagree with CAIR's approach on this issue...

Anonymous said...

Not sure who at CAIR gave you that response, because CAIR is actually the one issuing a Press Release denouncing the name of the movie and working with producers and wirter and directer on changing it....read here

http://www.cair.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/165/ArticleID/25369/mid1/777/currPage/1/Default.aspx