After a raft of complaints on social networks, Walmart on Tuesday stopped selling a large prosthetic nose, described in its online Halloween store as “perfect for an Arab Sheik.”
— Sara Yasin (@missyasin) October 27, 2015
The retailer acted just hours after the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee expressed its concern that the bizarrely named “Sheik Fagin Nose” would be used in “racist anti-Arab costumes.”
Walmart, which is trying to catch up to Amazon in the race for online customers, was selling the item on behalf of a smaller retailer, Morris Costumes of Charlotte, N.C., which appears to have been responsible forthe product description and the slightly incorrect version of its name used to market it. The product was actually called the “Sheik/Fagin Nose” on its packaging, as an alternative weekly in Seattle, The Stranger, reported last year when the rapper Macklemore apparently wore one on stage in what was widely interpreted as an offensive caricature of a stereotypical Jew.//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
literally a Sheik/Fagin nose pic.twitter.com/T4An8Y8eig
— dybbuk (@silby) May 20, 2014
The latex nose remains on sale on Amazon’s website, albeit under an updated version of the name, the “Sultan Nose,” which drops the reference to Fagin, Charles Dickens’s Jewish villain. Fagin, originally referred to as just “the Jew” when “Oliver Twist” was first serialized in 1837, distressed members of England’s 19th-century Jewish community from the start. Over a century later, when the novel was adapted for the screen by David Lean, the movie trailer described Alec Guinness as being “unbelievably transformed” by a prosthetic hooked nose to play Fagin. Michael Stein, the chief executive of Cinema Secrets, the Burbank, Calif., company that makes the nose, said in a telephone interview that he was unaware of the product until Tuesday but planned to “definitely discontinue it.” The nose, he explained, was not developed by the company but was part of a product line of latex prosthetics, Woochie, that Cinema Secrets had bought some years ago. “The last thing that we’re looking to do is to offend anybody,” Mr. Stein said. The product was removed from Cinema Secrets’s website shortly after the call. Arab bloggers who complained about the nose on social networks, including Nadeem Muaddi, an editor at Al Jazeera America, were also successful in their attempts to persuade Walmart to stop selling another Halloween costume they found offensive: the “Israeli Soldier Costume for Kids.”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
— Nadeem Muaddi (@nmuaddi) October 26, 2015
— Habib Battah (@habib_b) October 26, 2015
That outfit is also sold online by Walmart on behalf of a smaller retailer, Wholesale Halloween Costume of Edison, N.J., which makes an explicitly ethnic-nationalistic pitch in its own product description:
Defend your Jewish heritage proudly by wearing the Israeli Soldier Boy’s Costume! The Israeli Defense Forces have a mission to protect the land and the people of Israel from outside threats with low casualties, and to avoid waging war if at all possible. One of the I.D.F.’s core values is human life, and they see every person as a being of value, despite his or her nationality, origin or religion.
Parents buying the costume are also encouraged to “Steel your little soldier with a prop weapon from our vast accessories artillery!”
The same costume is also available on Amazon’s website, where it is sold alongside other military outfits, including the “Fun World Navy Seal Boys Costume,” paired with an image of a uniformed child in camouflage face paint raising a knife, as if to stab an unseen enemy.