News of the upcoming Hollywood biopic about the life of 13th century mystic, poet and scholar Jalaluddin Rumi starring Leonardo DiCaprio has generated a frenzied social media storm. This is because Afghanistan disputes the joint Turkey-Iran claim to Rumi’s birthplace and, therefore, to his epic works. Iran and Turkey agreed to register Rumi’s Mathnawi Ma’nawi, a work consisting of six chapters and 26,000 couplets, with UNESCO as joint cultural heritage. In response, Afghanistan lodged an official complaint to the UNESCO representative which did not calm the social media frenzy -- although it did prompt Iran’s ambassador to roll back his country’s claim, clarifying that “Iran only attempts to register some old versions of the Mathnawi.” A second social media storm now rages over why a white man should play this role with opponents insisting #RumiWasntWhite.
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