ABC Family pulls plug on Alice in Arabia after coming under fire by Muslim activists

Image courtesy of ABC Family Channel

Image courtesy of ABC Family Channel

On March 17th, the ABC Family channel announced that it had ordered the pilots of three new dramas– Recovery Road, Unstrung, and Alice in Arabia. The Disney-owned cable network has been attempting to capture a key younger demographic with their programming and felt these three new dramas would help them accomplish that goal. In a statement after the announcement, ABC Family president Tom Ascheim said:

“These three powerful new dramas are a great fit with ABC Family’s brand of original programming known for diverse stories that challenge as well as entertain our viewers.”

It was only a matter of days later however, when one of the pilots they’d ordered, “Alice in Arabia,” came under fire from Muslim activist groups. On March 21st, amid the outcry by groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations Los Angeles Chapter (CAIR-LA), the cable network announced that they would be canceling the order for “Alice in Arabia’s” pilot episode.

“Alice in Arabia,” was to be a show that followed a rebellious teenage American girl whose parents suffer some unnamed tragedy. Alice is then kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian, and forced to live in a foreign country. Alice is basically a prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, a stranger in a strange land, but finds that she is intrigued by the people, as well as the country around her. She is surprised by the diverse set of views of the world among the people she meets, as well as about her own situation. Though perhaps a bit charmed by her “new life,” Alice desperately wants to return home, to the life she knew, and must rely on her sense of independence and sharp with to make that happen.

Among the concerns of groups like CAIR-LA, was the potential that Muslims depicted in the program would suffer from stereotyping, or a reinforcement of racist– or at least, racially insensitive– ideals. The activist group asked for a meeting with the ABC Family brass to express their views and concerns, and following the meeting, the network dropped the axe on the pilot. In a statement, a spokesperson for the network said, “The current conversation surrounding our pilot was not what we had envisioned and is certainly not conducive to the creative process, so we’ve decided not to move forward with this project.”

The “Alice in Arabia” pilot episode was created and written by a US Army veteran Brooke Eikmeier, who formerly worked for the military as a cryptologic linguist in the Arabic language. She was also trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East, and concluded her military service just this past September.

CAIR-LA was pleased with the network’s decision to pull the plug on the show, and in a statement of its own said, “We welcome ABC Family channel’s decision to respond to community concerns by canceling plans for a program that had the potential to promote ethnic and religious stereotyping.”

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