Two years ago, Muslim groups protested when the plot of the hit Fox drama '24' cast Islamic terrorists as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America.
Now, after a one-year respite during which Russian separatists played the bad guys on the critically acclaimed series, Muslims are back in the evil spotlight. Unlike last time, when agent Jack Bauer saved the day, the terrorists this time have already succeeded in detonating a nuclear bomb in a Los Angeles suburb.
As we noted earlier this week on this site, the attribution of the fictional terrorists as Muslims actually makes a good deal of sense. After all, if you are going to have the premise that terrorists are operating on American soil, then Muslims would indeed seem to be the most likely ones to do so at this point in time. That much should be obvious.
If anything, the program has gone too far in the opposite direction over the years, pretending that threats other than Islam are predominant. As Fox pointed out in a written statement reprinted in the CNN story:
Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States. The show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints.
The Fox statement also pointed out that the show's audience is not grotesquely stupid:
24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism. After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical.
What is most annoying about the protests, however, is the blatant lying being perpetrated by some of the complainers, as in this quote from the CNN story:
Engy Abdelkader, a member of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee from Howell, New Jersey, launched a campaign Wednesday to encourage Muslims offended by the program to complain to Fox.
"I found the portrayal of American Muslims to be pretty horrendous," she said. "It was denigrating from beginning to end. This is one of the most popular programs on television today. It's pretty distressing."
That is bunk. The program is taking great care to ensure that viewers do not see all Muslims as jihadists, as I noted in my comment here on Monday, and as the CNN report also observed:
Concerns about Muslims' civil rights, detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo-like holding centers, and stereotyping are given vastly expanded treatment on '24' this year. In one exchange, the show depicts the president's national security adviser challenging the White House chief of staff over the detention of Muslims without criminal charges.
"Right now the American Muslim community is our greatest asset," the security adviser says. "They have provided law enforcement with hundreds of tips, and not a single member of that community has been implicated in these attacks."
"So far," the chief of staff responds.
Those American Muslims who fear being tarred with the same brush as the jihadists should simply take care to ensure that the U.S. Muslim community stresses its full loyalty to the United States and the rejection of jihad here and everywhere else. Whether that changes their relationships with Muslims elsewhere in the world is for them to work out for themselves. Fictional TV shows can't change that reality.
From Karnick on Culture.