ABC Family drops controversial pilot about Saudi Arabia

ABC Family has abandoned a drama pilot called Alice in Arabia after advocacy groups expressed concern that it would perpetuate negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.

The pilot followed an American teen who is kidnapped by her relatives and taken to Saudi Arabia, where she is kept as a prisoner in her Muslim grandfather’s home and forced to “find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil,” according to an official network logline read. The script’s from Brooke Eikmeier, a former cryptologic linguist in the Arabic language for U.S. Army who trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East. It was one of three new drama pilots announced by ABC Family earlier this week.

Said an ABC spokesman, “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 American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee responded by saying it welcomed the decision and that it “hopes that the Disney Company will work towards resolving other issues raised, such as the depiction of Arabs in the series Once Upon a Time as well as issues surrounding the “Aladdin” musical.”

“By doing so the Disney Company, and ABC Family have rid themselves of a show that did nothing but perpetuate demanding stereotypes,” said ADC President Samer Khalaf in a statement. “Moving forward we encourage other media outlets to stay away from such programing and not engage in the stereotyping of any community. We look forward to continued dialogue and conversation with the Disney company.”

After ABC Family announced the decision to develop Alice in Arabia, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, called for the cable net to meet with Muslim and Arab-American community leaders about the potential series. Spokesman Yasmin Nouh told EW 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.”

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