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Drummer Boy' drummed off Detroit TV

DETROIT -- Protests that the animated Christmas movie 'The Little Drummer Boy' portrays a racist image of Arabs has prompted a Detroit television station to drop plans to rebroadcast it.

WJBK-TV, which had aired the film last Saturday, responded to complaints from Arab-Americans by withdrawing the program from its scheduled showing on Dec. 22.

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'We serve the community and we have a large population of Arab- Americans in Detroit,' said Carolyn Wofford, WJBK's program director. 'One of their concerns is that it gives negative connotations to Arabs just as the (Arab-Israeli) peace talks are going on.'

The movie was produced in 1968 and is now in syndication. It has been in many television markets over the years and Detroit apparently is the only market that has withdrawn it, although Arab groups frequently have complained about its message.

Arabs complained to the station that the half-hour show depicts Arabs as fat, ugly hook-nosed abductors who take a Jewish boy named Aaron after his parents are killed by Arab bandits.

'What these two Arabs do is try to exploit Aaron to make a buck,' said Jack Shaheen, a communications professor atSouthern Illinois University in Edwardsville. 'They think they can be rich if they make Aaron play the drum for a crowd in the marketplace. They then force Aaron to sell his camel and they take the money.'

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The Arab characters Ben and Ali, Shaheen said, are never allowed to change their evil ways. He said Ben is described as having 'gold and silver on his mind and mischief in his soul.'

In place of 'The Little Drummer Boy,' the station will show 'Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.'

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