Petition launched to block Leonardo DiCaprio playing 13th century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi

Potential film is accused of 'Hollywood whitewashing'

A petition has been launched to block Leonardo DiCaprio from portraying 13th century Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi in a new movie.

Created by Valerie Janovic, the petition which has attracted over 8,000 signatures so far, states that DiCaprio’s potential casting is just another example of “Hollywood whitewashing”.

It comes after screenwriters David Franzoni and Stephen Joel Brown recently told The Guardian they were considering casting the Oscar winner as Rumi in their forthcoming film, adding that they wanted to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema.

But Janovic has argued: “Muslim actors are readily typecast as terrorists, but when a movie portrays a Muslim in a positive light, they are shunted off to the side to make room for another white actor.”

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“Franzoni and Brown need to cast a Middle Eastern actor as Rumi to truly challenge the Hollywood stereotypes,” she added, including the hashtag #RumiWasntWhite. “Casting Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi rewrites history, takes possession of Muslim accomplishments, and gives the credit to a white man,” the petition continues.

“Now, when people think of Rumi, they’ll picture him with pale skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. Sign this petition to stop whitewashing history!” DiCaprio is yet to be officially cast in the film and Janovic hopes the petition will change the screenwriters’ minds.

The issue of “whitewashing” in Hollywood has become a hot topic in recent years. Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson’s latest movie, a remake of Japanese anime Ghost In The Shell came under fire for casting Johansson instead of an Asian actor.