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Negative, and Wrong

November 07, 1998

Re Ed Leibowitz's profile of actor Tony Shalhoub ("Caught in the Middle," Nov. 3):

It is ironic that an actor who professes to having shunned previous parts as an Arab character because of negative portrayal would step up to defend his role in "The Siege." Shalhoub's passion for telling a story and prodding public consciousness to a place of reckoning is laudable; yet there is a great naivete at play here.

Simply put, this reader--like many others of Arab and non-Arab extraction--does not believe that it is the express hope of this film to arouse sympathy for Arabs in its supposed morality play. For the history of Arab roles in Hollywood is so littered with negative portrayal, trivialization and dehumanization that the sentiment clearly does not ring true.

Hollywood would do well to recognize that Arab culture is complex and multifaceted; its religions and tongues are many. We take umbrage at the very negative, demeaning and racist portrayal of Arabs and Arab culture in films such as this. The Arab population in this country is insulted yet again.

MOHAMED SHARIF

Los Angeles

The article states that Shalhoub played a Russian cab driver on the sitcom "Wings." And just what part of Russia might "Antonio Scarpacci" have come from?

MICHAEL SCHLESINGER

Sherman Oaks

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