Nothing Is Private for Towelhead


America’s largest civil liberties group, CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), is urging Warner Bros. executives to re-title Alan Ball’s upcoming film Towelhead.

The film, which co-stars Aaron Eckhart and Toni Collette, centers around a young Arab-American girl, Jasira, (played by Summer Bishil) who struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War. Jasira is dubbed “Towelhead” by racist American characters in the story.

In a letter sent to Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry M. Meyer, CAIR-LA executive director Hussam Ayloush said, “The title is… of great concern to us, since the word is commonly used in a derogatory manner against people of the Muslim faith or Arab origin… It is unfortunate that a major film studio would choose to exploit an ethnic slur as a sensational promotion for a movie. Mainstreaming a bigoted term in this manner will only serve to legitimize and normalize anti-Muslim prejudice in our society.”

In the letter, Ayloush requests that the film be re-named Nothing Is Private, a title that had been previously used for the film at various film festivals and screenings.

Academy-Award winning writer Alan Ball (screenwriter of American Beauty and creator of acclaimed TV series “Six Feet Under”) adapted Towelhead from Alicia Erian’s novel of the same name. Ball, who makes his feature directorial debut with the film, has already struck back at the charges, insisting the title will remain as it was intended.

He says, “As a gay man, I know how it feels to be called hateful names simply because of who I am. Therefore, I felt it was important to retain the title of Alicia Erian’s novel, in which she so effectively dramatizes the pain inflicted by such language, something many people of non-minority descent never have to face.”

Ball continues, “I believe one of the unintended consequences of forbidding such words to be spoken is imbuing those words with more power than they should ever have, and helping create the illusion that the bigotry and racism expressed by such cruel epithets is less prevalent than it actually is, which we all know is sadly not the case.”

For now, the debate will most likely continue until the film, which is sure-to-be provocative and controversial regardless of its title, is released on September 26th.

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