'Little America' writers say episode has been banned in 11 countries: 'Telling queer Arab stories is an uphill struggle'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Little America tells the stories of immigrants. (Photo: Apple)

Writers of the new Apple TV+ show Little America say multiple countries have banned an episode, just four days after it premiered.

The series tells the stories of immigrants in America, with each of the eight, half-hour episodes, adapted from true stories published in Epic Magazine, standing alone. As a whole, the show has an impressive 100 percent rating on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews, which is to say that it’s already beloved by American critics.

However, writers Amrou Al-Kadhi and Stephen Dunn, who co-wrote the script for the half-hour titled “The Son,” say it’s garnering controversy elsewhere. Apple officially describes the episode in question this way: “When Rafiq escapes from his home in Syria after his father discovers he is gay, he’s forced to go on the run until he finds his ‘home’ in the unlikeliest of places.”

Apple TV+ did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.

Al-Kadhi, who uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” further explained their heartbreak over the ban in an interview with the United Kingdom’s Pink News. “I was really heartbroken. It was another blow, as the episode almost didn’t happen,” they said. “All our cast is queer and Muslim, and some were not allowed into America because of Trump’s travel ban. The shoot had to be cancelled. But thankfully, Apple and all the producers supported us moving the shoot to Canada so that we could make this happen.”

Al-Kadhi continued, “It’s the reality of telling stories like this — it’s just that much harder, and it felt eerily close to the subject matter; as we were telling a queer Muslim story of immigration, our queer Muslim immigrant cast were forbidden to tell it. I know lots of queer Arabs and Muslims currently living in the Middle East who feel terrified of expressing themselves, and was desperately hoping that this episode could act like some kind of balm or source of home and comfort for them. It really saddens me to think that they don’t have access to the episode — we are exploring every option possible to get it to them.”

The Little America episode titled "The Son" features an immigrant love story. (Photo: Apple)

Dunn noted that the he and Al-Kadhi were extremely careful to get the story right, because it felt very personal to both of them.

“Amrou is a queer, non-binary Arab refugee from Iraq. They lives in the U.K. For me, I was kicked out of my house when I was 16. I think what we really connected with in this story, coming from different backgrounds — so much of our lives have been about building a sense of community and family and home. Ultimately, Rafiq’s journey is a pretty universal queer narrative.”

All episodes of Little America are now available on Apple TV+, except, of course, for the countries with the ban.

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