ABC Family's 'Alice in Arabia' sparks outrage

ABC Family’s recently announced drama pilot Alice in Arabia is inciting significant backlash on Twitter and from a Muslim civil liberties organization. The pilot follows an American teen who is kidnapped by her Saudi Arabian extended family and must “find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, called for the cable network to meet with Muslim and Arab-American community leaders to discuss their grievances with the potential series. CAIR sent a letter to ABC Family president Tom Ascheim on Tuesday requesting a meeting with its organization and other groups.

“We want ABC to sit down and to meet with us and have a dialogue,” spokeswoman Yasmin Nouh told EW. “[And] to recognize that the portrayal of [this story has] real consequences on Muslims and especially on Muslim youth, not only how others treat them, but in terms of how they see themselves.”

The organization has not yet received a response from ABC Family, which is owned by Disney, but a spokesperson for the cable net issued the following statement: “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.”

Here is the full ABC Family description of the pilot:

“Alice in Arabia” is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil. The pilot was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously served in the US Army as a Cryptologic Linguist in the Arabic language, trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East. She left service in September 2013 as a rank E-4 Specialist.”

Very troubling to several on Twitter is the reference to living life “behind the veil,” which Nouh says is just part of the bigger issue with the plot line. “The veil connotes and is equated to oppression, you are in an oppressive land with oppressive people and the veil is just a part of that,” she said.

The response on Twitter has been immense since Tuesday, with people using the Twitter hashtag #AliceinArabia to share their opinions and solicit a call to action.


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