Since the two-night season premiere of 24, I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, it has officially hit the floor with a booming thud. It has taken Muslim groups less than two-days to complain about the storyline for season 6 of the TV show 24. One of the groups trying to fight back over the series is the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Council said that they had a conference call on Wednesday with the Executives at the Fox network. In the call, they protested what was currently taking place on the show and “requested” a more positive spin on the way Muslims are portrayed. However, as of yet Fox has not caved to the organizations demands/requests. Wednesday night they issued a statement saying “they had not singled out any ethnic or religious group for blame in creating its characters.”
Sireen Sawaf, an official at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (based out of Los Angeles), is a big fan of 24. She liked how the show had previously gone out of their way to show non-Muslim terror cells. Now that season 6 is showing Muslim terrorists act as Palestinian-styled “suicide bombers”, among other things, Sawaf has said “But I’m concerned about the image it ingrains in the minds of the American public and the American government, particularly when you have anti-Muslim statements spewing from the mouths of government officials.” So according to Ms. Sawaf’s statement, it was okay for the producers of 24 to portray Russians, Germans, a white President of the US, or even a blond man as being a terrorist, but once they begin to portray a Muslim as a terrorist it is not okay.
An immigration lawyer in New Jersey, Sohail Mohammed, actually watched the season premiere with a reporter from the Associated Press. Mohammed states “I was shocked. Somewhere, some lunatic out there watching this will do something to an innocent American Muslim because he believes what he saw on TV.” Mohammed represents some of the detainees from the 9/11 “dragnet”. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Mohammed handles the continuing season of 24.
The complaints from the Muslim community do not stop there. Yet another Muslim, Engy Abdelkader, from the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee that is based out of New Jersey is up in arms over the show. Ms. Abdelkader stated “I found the portrayal of American Muslims to be pretty horrendous. It was denigrating from beginning to end. This is one of the most popular programs on television today. It’s pretty distressing.”
Muslims and Muslim organizations all of the country are fearful that the show is going to create a backlash against the Muslim communities, based solely on how the show is portraying them in as “sleeper-cells” and “terrorists”. Apparently the upcoming episodes will also show more Muslims being detained and put into the “detention camps”. This is becoming a soar spot for the Muslim community and they are beginning to fear that Americans country-wide may think this may be a good idea. According to the American-Islamic Council, a white man was arrested yesterday in Warren County Michigan for trying to vandalize a mosque and for making threats toward an Imam. Apparently they are trying to tie this one man’s actions as a result of watching the season premiere of 24.
Imam Abu-Namous, of the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, hopes that the fans and viewers of the show will be able to see that the only fantasy and not based on reality. “This allegation that there are dormant cells or terrorists in the United States, this is an idea of the imagination. I think that it is far-fetched,” the Imam said. “At the same time, I don’t rule out the possibility of the existence of some bad guys. Any community can have bad guys, so why not the Muslim community?” He also went on to say that the Muslim community loves the United States, just as they love any other community, and “we never wish that any harm be inflicted on this country.”
So even though the producers of 24 tried to make the new season more “fair and balanced” by having a group of Muslims working to bring peace in the country via a converted ex-terrorist leader, it was still not enough. The Muslim community liked the idea that Fox showed a more positive side in the premiere, but did not agree with the nuclear explosion or showing other Muslims as terrorist and “suicide bombers”. Fox is almost to the point of having their hands tied, just as the rest of the country does as well. It is okay if they want to continue with the show, but they should not portray Muslims in a negative fashion what-so-ever. Just as Muslims that board planes should never be detained or profiled, 24 should realize they should never show a Muslim as a terrorist. It’s not like a Muslim has ever been a terrorist in real-life, right? Oh wait a minute, there was an incident a few years ago called September 11th and it was actually in real-life; imagine that. And perhaps the Muslim community should be focusing on more real-life cases such as the movie “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” where the documentary shows actual footage of Arab countries stating how much they hate America and Americans. Perhaps they are not aware that Howard Gordan, an Executive Producer of 24, stated “Obsession is required viewing for everyone.” Even after the documentary has been shown on the national news channels and they have supporters such as Mr. Gordan, we have not seen the amount of complaints and backlash as we have seen over the 2 night season premiere of a fictional TV show.
What can we look forward to with this season of 24, based on the complaints from the Muslim community? Well, if you recall the season of 24 in 2005, Fox actually had Kiefer Sutherland issue a statement on TV, in order to calm the waters between Fox and the Muslim communities. The Muslim organizations were afraid that Americans would retaliate against Muslims in America because it was too soon after 9/11 to see a Muslim as a potential terrorist on TV. So, should we be on the look-out for yet another politically correct statement for this season? Only time will tell and until then the drama on and off screen will continue.
-The Arizona Daily Sun Online, http://www.azdailysun.com/articles/2007/01/19/news/world/20070119_world_58.txt, Associated Press Article, Wayne Parry, 2007 January 19.
-New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/ent_radio/story/490036p-412681c.html, Austin Fenner, 2007 January 19.
-Obsession the Movie, http://www.obsessionthemovie.com/index.html, 2007 January 19.