Nearly 8,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Oscar winner Leonardo Dicaprio not to be cast as 13th century Persian poet Rumi in a new film. Created by Valerie Janovic, the petition states that DiCaprio’s potential casting is just another example of ‘Hollywood whitewashing’.

Leonardo DiCaprioThousands have signed a petition to stop Leonardo DiCaprio being cast as Rumi.

The petition came after screenwriters David Franzoni and Stephen Joel Brown told The Guardian they were considering casting DiCaprio as Rumi in their upcoming film, adding that they wanted to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema.

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The petition calls DiCaprio’s potential casting “both ludicrous and offensive.” “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,” Janovic writes.

“Franzoni and Brown need to cast a Middle Eastern actor as Rumi to truly challenge the Hollywood stereotypes,” she adds, 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.

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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.