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Muslims Complain, U.S. Network Cancels Controversial Pilot

ABC Family cancels a pilot for a new series which depicted an American girl who was kidnapped by her Saudi relatives.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/24/2014, 4:14 AM

 Muslim demonstrators burn U.S. flags during a protest against the 'Innocence of Muslims' film
Muslim demonstrators burn U.S. flags during a protest against the 'Innocence of Muslims' film
Reuters

The U.S.-based television network ABC Family has cancelled a pilot for a new series, Alice in Arabia, after an outcry from a local Muslim group.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the recently ordered pilot came under fire from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), after a script for the show was leaked, revealing it revolves around "an American teenage girl kidnapped by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family and forced to live with them."

CAIR said it had asked ABC Family to meet with leaders in the Muslim community to discuss "concerns about potential stereotyping in the pilot," and the network said it had nixed the pilot.

“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," an ABC Family spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

When the pilot order was announced, Alice in Arabia was described as a high-stakes drama about an American girl who - after tragedy befell her parents - was unknowingly kidnapped by members of her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian.

The character was to be a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, but would find herself intrigued by her new surroundings and its people, who were to have surprisingly diverse views on the world and her situation. Alice would need to depend on her independent spirit and wit to find her way back home and survive life behind the veil.

The pilot was written by Brooke Eikmeier, a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a cryptologic linguist in the Arabic language, trained to support NSA missions in the Middle East, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

CAIR expressed its satisfaction with the cancellation of the pilot.

"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," said CAIR executive director Hussam Ayloush, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "We thank all those who voiced their concerns on this issue," citing the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council as playing integral roles.

CAIR’s former civil rights manager, Cyrus McGoldrick, also welcomed the cancellation, but took it a step further and blamed “the Zionists”, according to The Blaze.

“Getting ‪#‎AliceInArabia cancelled was a good move – I’m glad it got done so quickly, too. These skirmishes with Zionist Hollywood should be easy and decisive, and I’m so pleasantly surprised that this was. S/o to ADC, CAIR, and the many individuals who stormed the internet and handled this,” wrote McGoldrick on his Facebook page.

The cancellation of the pilot comes several weeks after several Muslim countries announced they would ban the Paramount Pictures film "Noah" which, they claimed, is contrary to the Muslim faith.

In 2012, the "Innocence of Muslims" film, which depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a thuggish deviant, triggered a wave of violent protests in Muslim countries that left dozens dead.

Ironically, the plot of Alice in Arabia is similar to recent allegations made against the Saudi king. The United Nations recently received pleas to help free several Saudi Arabian princesses allegedly being held against their will in a royal compound.

Allegations submitted to the UN human rights office claim that several daughters of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia have been held for the past 13 years in the royal compound in Jeddah.