Homeland, TV’s Most Islamophobic Show
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“Homeland” leaves little doubt that, regardless of the other red herring motivations of justice and psychological manipulation, it is being Muslim that makes someone dangerous. Brody is able to resist Abu Nazir’s machinations when he wants, and his desire to avenge Issa ultimately is overcome by his love for his own daughter. But nothing can rid him of his Muslimness, and so, like a child molester, he will always be a threat to the audience. When his wife discovers Brody is a Muslim who has been praying in that most sinister of man-caves, the garage, she tears through its contents like she is looking for his kiddie-porn stash. When she finds his Quran, she points angrily at it, shouting, “These are the people who tortured you!” These are the people who, if they found out Brody’s daughter was having sex, “would stone her to death in a soccer stadium!” She thought that Brody had put all the “crazy stuff” behind him, but he can only look sheepish and ashamed. The Quran, the sacred text of billions of people throughout history, is nothing more or less than terrorism and medieval justice embodied. Brody had it all, his wife implies: white, a hero, a family man, but he threw it all away by becoming a Muslim.
2. Muslims are infiltrating America!
Then there’s Roya Hammad, who was introduced to us in the Season 2 premiere. An Oxford-educated television reporter, she is so successful and well-respected (think Christiane Amanpour) that she’s able to arrange interviews with members of Congress and senior CIA officials at the drop of a hat (not for professional purposes, we find out, but to act as a distraction while Brody carries out a sinister task for Abu Nazir). Sexy, self-assured and thoroughly modern, Hammad is also a loyal lieutenant of the Muslim fanatic leader (so much for trusting Oxbridge degrees and tight skirts). She reveals to Brody that she knows Abu Nazir because “our families have been close since 1947. They were refugees from Palestine together.” Since the show doesn’t bother explaining how they became refugees or what that might have meant for their families (their plight, after all, is irrelevant), viewers are left to believe that Muslims/Arabs participate in terrorist networks like Americans send holiday cards. The implicit message is that millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants (or all Muslims since they are interchangeable on “Homeland”) can pose a similar threat merely because of their backgrounds. And perhaps the even more insidious implication is one that Michele Bachmann would love: that Muslims, no matter how successful, well-placed and integrated, are a hidden danger to their fellow Americans.
“It does not matter whether they are rich, smart, discreetly enjoying a Western lifestyle or attractive: All are to be suspected,” writes Peter Beaumont in the Guardian (“Homeland” has also attracted a large following in the U.K.).
Roya, of course, was not the first character of this type. Last season, viewers met a quiet, bespectacled professor, Raqim Faisel, and his blond American wife, Aileen. The couple cynically uses the quintessential symbol of patriotism, an American flag, as a secret terrorist code. The message, once again, seems to be that Muslim terrorists are lurking under every stone, especially in places of power and influence, from top television news networks and universities to the halls of Congress and even the presidential ticket.
3. Getting it wrong
Speaking of Raqim Faisel, one of my pet peeves about this show is the many mistakes it makes when it comes to Islam and Arab culture. Where to start? The name Raqim does not actually exist in the Arabic language (perhaps they mean Rahim?). Unless the character’s parents were unusually influenced by ’80s hip-hop, I’m not sure where they could have gotten the name.