2005-03-10 / This Week's Attitude

Muslim Outrage Over Fox Action Show Is Misguided

This Week

This Week’s AttitudeBy Neil S. Friedman

I’d been trying to avoid the subject of this week’s column for several months, but the issue just won’t go away, so I decided to add my two cents to the ongoing brouhaha.

Several months ago a national Muslim advocacy protested Fox Television’s “biased and unfair” portrayal of a terrorist Muslim family on its popular, prime time show, “24.”

In the first three seasons of the show, which debuted following the devastating attacks on American soil, it’s terrorist-laden plots, concerning the operations of a Los Angles-based government counter terrorist unit, made an effort to avoid overt Muslim connections. However, this year, the connection is blatant, prompting immediate objections from the Muslim community.

In January, after seeing a preview of the fourth season, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) urged Muslims to write to Fox and convey their outrage at the series, “which portrays Muslims as vicious terrorists who try to blend into American life just like the 9/11 hijackers did, while planning to murder thousands of innocent Americans…

“The portrayal of Muslim terrorists is highly inaccurate… The Muslim mother in ‘24’ is not wearing a headscarf and is dressed in pants which is a further insult to Muslim sensibilities. The infidel American girlfriend, who was poisoned, should have been beheaded or stoned to death according to Islamic law.”

Fox reached a compromise with the group and agreed to distribute CAIR’s public service announcements to local affiliates. It subsequently created a disclaimer that featured Kiefer Sutherland, the show’s star, saying, “…that while terrorism is a critical challenge to America and the world, it is also important to know that the American Muslim community denounces and resists all forms of terrorism, too. So, in watching ‘24’, please bear that in mind.”

While it appears the network was just sustaining to its “fair and balanced” philosophy, it’s more like it pandered to Muslim criticism. At least there were no reported script changes to portray the fictional Muslim terrorists in a better light.

In the fictional plot, one of the terrorist leaders shot his own wife and tried to shoot his son, fearing they would thwart his plans. (This was after the United States Secretary of Defense and his daughter are kidnapped and after his wife fatally poisons her son’s American girlfriend to eliminate her as a possible witness to their scheme.)

Admittedly, since September 11, 2001, some Ameri-cans still harbor negative perceptions of Muslims and unfairly lump the words terrorist and Muslim together. Any rational person knows that sort of narrow-minded thinking is ridiculous. While the overwhelming majority of terrorists in recent years have, in fact, been Muslims, not every Muslim is a terrorist, nor is it likely the average Muslim knows a terrorist. Nonetheless, America’s image of Islam is solely based on the unending violence and revenge gleaned from nightly news broadcasts and media reports. But, I doubt any rational American believes the image portrayed on “24” is the typical Muslim family image.

In the aftermath of 9/11, knee-jerk reaction led to random attacks on guiltless Muslims and Muslim-operated businesses. On the other hand, there were scattered reports of Americans coming to the aid of Muslim neighbors and making an effort to patronize Muslim merchants in their communities.

However, I do not recall reading much about Muslim outrage. While the rest of the world expressed sympathy and compassion for the innocent victims, Muslims — here and abroad — were not vociferous about condemning the violence. Perhaps they feared reprisals from the fanatics who perpetrated the terrorism.

One CAIR official, who condemned the television show, said Muslims are concerned with how others view them, particularly in the mass media. While he has every right to articulate his view, perhaps he should also prod Muslims to vocalize their sheer contempt and intolerance for the terrorist activities of their brethren.

My gosh, it’s fictional entertainment, that doesn’t prejudice the Muslim community anymore than “The Sopranos” or “The Godfather” movies disparage Italians; than crime dramas are insensitive when they depict Russian criminals and Hispanic or Jamaican drug dealers; than “The Passion of the Christ” damaged the image of modern Jews. Anyone who doesn’t realize that is either naïve (with a capital N) or dim-witted (with a capital D) — or both.

I can think of 24 reasons to watch “24” and not one of them is to satisfy one’s hatred and blood lust for the maniacal Muslims who engineered terrorist attacks before, on, or after September 11, 2001.

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