by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
It's worth remembering that during the Iraq war, the common slur for Arabs was "Hadji." In the source of this pop-culture reference – the '60's TV cartoon "Jonny Quest" – the character is actually a Sikh! Wikipedia even says that in the later '90's revival, "Hadji is revealed to be an Indian prince, and is given the last name Singh."
I'm a Canadian that was raised in a Sikh family and wore a turban until I was in the fifth grade. I chose to cut it off for many of the same reasons that Kevin B. Lee chose not to convert to Sikhism. A few years ago I wrote an article about my experience cutting my hair that won a national diversity writing award. If you're interested in reading it, you can find it here.
In reference to the above scene from Spike Lee's Inside Man, Erik Lundegaard writes:
The movie is about hostages and a bank heist, in the manner of "Dog Day Afternoon," and there's a scene halfway through where a Sikh hostage is released by the robbers only to be ordered by New York cops, with itchy, post-9/11 trigger fingers, onto the ground. They call him an Arab and take away his turban. Here's a later scene where the cops (Denzel Washingon, Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor) question the Sikh, Vikram, about the hostage situation, while he questions them about his turban situation. "I bet you can get a cab, though," is a good line, but it's a shame Vikram didn't get the last word. He deserved it.
Lundegaard also excerpts a great review of the film from the New Yorker. Update from a reader:
"Hadji" is a common slur for Arabs (or really, Muslims, and especially "unfriendly" ones), but it is "haji" or "hajji" and it comes from the honorific title given to people who have completed the Hajj to Mecca. I'm 99% certain Jonny Quest had nothing to do with it.