ABC Family’s ‘Alice in Arabia’ Draws Concern from Muslim Advocates

The greater Los Angeles-area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) announced Wednesday that it has asked ABC Family to meet with Muslim and Arab-American community leaders to discuss concerns about potential stereotyping in the pilot for the network’s new series “Alice in Arabia.”

One of three drama pilots ordered by ABC Family, the show centers on an American teen kidnapped by her Saudi Arabian family after tragedy befalls her parents.

In a letter sent to ABC Family president Tom Ascheim Tuesday, CAIR explained, “As the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, we are concerned about the negative impact this program could have on the lives of ordinary Arab-American and American Muslims.”

While CAIR-LA officials say they understand that the pilot’s writer (Brooke Eikmeier) says the series is designed to “give Arabs and Muslims a voice on American TV” and has “noble intentions,” they still believe the concerns brought to their org should be addressed.

“We are concerned that, given media references to the main character ‘surviving life behind the veil,’ the pilot and any resulting series may engage in stereotyping that can lead to things like bullying of Muslim students,” CAIR-LA exec director Hussam Ayloush said in a statement. “We urge ABC Family Channel to meet with representatives of the Muslim and Arab-American communities to discuss this important issue.”

This is not the first time that Washington-based CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy org, has spoken out. CAIR previously challenged actual and potential anti-Muslim stereotypes in “Executive Decision,” “24,” “The Siege,” “True Lies,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Obsession,” “The Third Jihad,” “Jihad in America” and “The Sum of All Fears.” The org has also acted as a consultant on films including DreamWorks Animation’s “The Prince of Egypt.”

In response to CAIR’s reaction, an ABC Family spokesperson said Wednesday, “We hope people will wait to judge this show on its actual merits once it is filmed. The writer is an incredible storyteller and we expect ‘Alice’ to be a nuanced and character driven show.”

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