20 July 2011
I often watch the cable television network Turner Classic Movies (TCM); one of the programming themes for this month, as seems to be true of one month each year, is "Race and Hollywood." This time, the self-appointed ethnic representative who gets to air not only films of his choice, but also his whining grievances about alleged cinematic stereotyping of his people, is a Dr. Jack Shaheen, author of some book that charges Hollywood with vilifying Arabs. The subject for yesterday night was portrayals of Arab women; among the films that Shaheen chose to illustrate his points on this topic, in his capacity as co-host, was Caesar and Cleopatra! Does this man, to whom the TCM site refers as "acclaimed" and as a "Middle East expert," have so little knowledge of history as to think that Cleopatra (VII) was an Arab? "Dr." Shaheen might find it edifying to learn that the Queen of the Nile was of the purely European Ptolemaic dynasty, and that she lived more than 600 years before there were any Arabs in Egypt. Since the TCM site also mentions the depiction of the Ayyubid ruler Saladin in The Crusader, it seems that Shaheen is equally ignorant of the fact that Saladin was not Arabic but Kurdish. How many box-tops did this guy mail in to get his doctorate?