See the update at the end of this post on CAIR-LA welcoming ABC Family's decision to cancel production of Alice in Arabia.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 20, 7:33 A.M.: When ABC Family announced a new addition to its lineup, the Greater Los Angeles-Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) in Anaheim sprang into action, not to see if their cable television grid includes the channel but to arrange a meeting with network executives.
Muslim and Arab-American community leaders want to discuss their concerns about potential stereotyping in the pilot for the new series called Alice in Arabia (think Wonderland but much hotter).
Here's how the show is described in the Hollywood Reporter:
Alice in Arabia is a high-stakes drama 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 U.S. 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.
So there you have it, budding screenwriters, just join the Army and then ... er, back to CAIR-LA, which wrote in a letter to ABC Family Channel President Tom Ascheim expressing concern "about the negative impact this program could have on the lives of ordinary Arab-American and American Muslims."
Officials from the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization say they understand Eikmeier has said her series is designed to "give Arabs and Muslims a voice on American TV" and has "noble intentions." But CAIR-LA says it's still concerned the pilot and resulting series might include stereotyping that could lead to problems for Muslims in America, including the bullying of students.
"We urge ABC Family Channel to meet with representatives of the Muslim and Arab-American communities to discuss this important issue," says CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush in a statement.
He noted his organization has in the past challenged actual and potential anti-Muslim stereotypes in Executive Decision, 24, The Siege and True Lies, among other productions, and served in a consulting role on the DreamWorks SKG film Prince of Egypt.
UPDATE, MARCH 24, 6 A.M.: CAIR-LA says it welcomes the decision by ABC Family to cancel production of Alice in Arabia.
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Variety reports that after the Anaheim-based office of the Muslim and Arab-American rights organization expressed its concerns about the show and asked for a sit-down meeting with ABC Family executives, the channel decided to cease production.
"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-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. "We thank all those who voiced their concerns on this issue, and particular thanks go to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council."
Of course, that means ABC Family has now left one former U.S. Army cryptologic linguist mighty steamed.