Yosry Bekhiet did something he had not done before the other night. He sat down to watch an episode of ’24’, and he was not impressed by what he saw. What he did see was the unfolding of a muslim terrorist plot on television, including the sabotage of nuclear plants, kidnappings, and a father threatening his ‘unloyal’ son.
“It’s disgusting,” Bekhiet said after watching an episode with an Associated Press reporter. “My own kids, if they see this show, they might hate me.”
Bekhiet, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation, is worried that the portrayal of muslims on the show will only worsen the relationship between muslims and non-muslims in America.
“It seems like on television, everybody has their turn as the bad guys: It happened to the Italians, the Russians. Now it’s our turn,” he said.
In January, a nationwide Muslim civil rights group, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations met with FOX executives to complain about the show. An agreement was reached wherby FOX had to air PSA’s about the treatment of muslims, including one starring Keifer Sutherland .
“While terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism,” Sutherland said. “So in watching 24, please, bear that in mind.”
“We’ve listened to their concerns and tried to work with them,” he said.
On the episode Bekhiet watched, Sutherland’s character, agent Jack Bauer, captures Dina Araz, the wife of one of the terrorist masterminds, after one nuclear plant has already melted down. He interrogates her in an attempt to find out more information on how to prevent more meltdowns.
“Every war has casualties,” she tells him coldly, a bullet from her husband’s gun still lodged in her bloodied arm. “No one is innocent.”
Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Iranian-born actress who plays Dina Araz, told Time magazine she had refused for years to play terrorists, saying they were among the only roles offered to actresses from the Middle East. She agreed to join 24 knowing she would take heat for it.
“But this role was a full-dimensional character,” she told the magazine. “She’s a very, very strong woman, and she has many faces. And things may not be what they seem.”
Mohamed Heva, a computer network administrator from Washington Township, also watched the episode at Bekhiet’s home. He believes the plotline is an implicit validation of President Bush’s foreign policy.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s being done on purpose, to instigate things and to let people know what the administration is doing is right,” he said. “It makes people look at every Muslim as a terrorist. These guys want to melt down reactors and kill Americans. That makes people hate us even more.”