Homeland is NOT Islamophobic

Published: August 2, 2014
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Sometimes people only see the fact that the antagonist, Abu Nazir, is a Muslim and therefore this show is Islamophobic; without recognising that in fact, Muslim terrorists DO exist and there are radical outfits operating in the name of Islam. PHOTO: HOMELAND FACEBOOK PAGE

Based around an American prisoner of war’s conversion to Islam and his suspected descent into the terrorist fold, five time Golden Globe-winning series, Homeland’ is widely acclaimed by critics for its top-notch political commentary and a devoted performance by the show’s CIA heroine, Claire Daines.

It’s not as uncontroversial among the American Muslim community, however; gaining a mixed response primarily because it has been accused of legitimising Islamophobia by portraying many of its antagonists as radical Muslim terrorists. What’s also feared is that Homeland will incorrectly portray Pakistan, the setting of its upcoming fourth season.

Yet I personally think it’s unfair to simplify Homeland as an anti-Muslim rant and dismiss it as yet another production dedicated to proving to the world that Islam causes half of the world to be inherently violent. In fact, Homeland’s complex narrative goes beyond Islamic terrorism, and does not spare American security apparatus and the political atmosphere of the United States in its three award-winning seasons. What Homeland does portray differently is its depiction of ‘turned’ Muslims, or everyday Muslims who transformed into terrorists. Rather than blame religious literature or readings of the Quran, it accuses more secular causes like drone strikes, foreign invasions and occupations for turning normal individuals into terrorists.

This is something that sets Homeland apart from other productions that focus on the Muslim ‘problem’, as it is addressed by Hollywood. Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty, also coincidentally placed in Pakistan, and based around the Abbottabad operation of 2011, is much more misleading than what Homeland has been accused of being for three years. All Muslims in Zero Dark Thirty are terrorists or spies; Islamabad is completely stereotyped into a very Middle Eastern location; notwithstanding Pakistan is in the Indian sub-continent and shares no borders with the Arab world. Camels, bazaars, minarets and veils are what categorise what is a very modern part of Pakistan and one of the world’s most planned capitals, and there is no Pakistani throughout the film’s running-time that is either a victim or simply a Pakistani.

Even the terrorists are consistently shown to be devout Arabic-speaking Muslims acting in accordance with Islamic commandments solely for the purpose of destroying the United States and its allies. When the film ends, a postscript highlights the losses suffered since the war on terror began. It would have been acceptable if this causality list wasn’t exclusively reserved for American soldiers and civilians. It ignored the thousands of non-Western civilians who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and multiple countries plagued by terrorist outfits and did not act as a justification of procedures that were followed by the CIA to catch Osama Bin Laden, one of the procedures that escalated attacks on polio workers as a consequence.

In contrast, Homeland doesn’t categorise Muslims into terrorists and shows great diversity in representing Muslims, not as monolithic and merely the same being with different faces, but as proper individuals with divergent aspirations. One of Claire Danes’s character’s co-workers is the son of a Lebanese woman and Mexican Muslim convert. Another Muslim CIA analyst is shunned for wearing a headscarf, again, a very rare acceptance of Islamophobia present in the United States that penetrates every section of society.

Stupid mistakes made by the CIA and other American security agencies are often very racist, like simply quarantining some suspects for being of Arab-origin or travelling to Lahore, where in fact the real culprits are white. The CIA is also shown not to keep its promises of protecting individuals who exchange their own lives for preventing attacks on innocent people, no matter how significant their contributions is in the war on terror. Where Zero Dark Thirty’s CIA is very heroic and only keen on preventing villainous Muslims from invading America, Homeland’s CIA is repeatedly slammed for its ineffective policies and ulterior motives.

In light of all this, claiming Homeland is Islamophobic is really, immensely inaccurate. Sometimes people only see the fact that the antagonist, Abu Nazir, is a Muslim, therefore this show is Islamophobic, without recognising that in fact Muslim terrorists do exist and there are radical outfits operating in the name of Islam across the world. It is, on the contrary, a show where a CIA case officer accuses the head of an al Qaeda offshoot of ‘corrupting the Prophet’s word’ and exposing his lies and self-contradictions, and where a Venezuelan imam refuses to give a convert sanctuary by claiming,

‘You are not a Muslim, you are a terrorist.’

Such labels ring untrue when a show is more honest in showing Muslims than Muslims themselves, and reflects that the true definition of a ‘terrorist’ transcends followers of Islam and might just include the top-most echelons of the political pyramid.

Rana Saadullah Khan

Rana Saadullah Khan

A film fanatic who can't stand nationalism over liberalism, or conspiracy theories or secular facism or religious fantacism. He is an A Levels student at Learning Alliance. He tweets as @RSaadullah (twitter.com/RSaadullah)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abhi099

    It is really astonishing to see so many films and tv showing muslims as terrorists. But that is the truth isnt it. Looking at syria and iraq muslims from my country are also going to these countries to kill people. Homeland is not islamophobic. Truth is muslims are non muslimophobic.Recommend

  • Anon

    I’m sorry, but did you see season 3?

    Basically the plot was that all CIA operatives have a conscience and all they ever want is peace…. it’s crackpot intelligence agencies in other countries (Iran) that are an obstacle. As soon as the CIA is able to dispose of them, world peace is achieved.

    O and of course even the less nutty of the Irani intelligence agencies (you know, the one the CIA can plant at the top of Iranian intelligence and work with), are basically psychopaths who go around killing ex-wives and children in cold blood, while the wise old man at Langley (Saul) sheds tears because, of course… unlike the Iranians, he’s an actual human being who values human life!

    Of course, occasionally he sends out hit squads and the odd child gets killed in the cross-fire, but what else is the poor man to do? His hand is forced. And besides, he feels terrible afterwards, so its all ok!

    And we we have a token hijab wearer at Langley, whose very faith is an “insult to the memory” of those killed in terrosist attacks. But that’s ok, because shes really good at her job and so she can be tolerated.

    The first season made some limited attempt to get into the complexity of the issues, but after that Homeland has veered firmly in the direction of American jingoism. The Iranis are still corrupt or fanatical and pissed off for apparently no good reason. The CIA is still the only force for good in a world full of danger…. I was surprised they didnt just stick the CIA Logo in the Production credits!Recommend

  • Ammar

    I’m actually looking quite forward to see Claire eating a brownie at Jammin’ Java while donning a burqa and staring suspiciously at the cafe’s numerous foot long bearded male customers.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Homeland has been declared as halal by rana saadullah. Thats exactly what the world was waiting for. :-)Recommend

  • nust

    Homeland isn’t Islamophobic, Argo isn’t racist and Israel isn’t a terrorist. Enough said.Recommend

  • Zahra

    I agree with your “Non-Muslimophobic” line, I believe that terrorists don’t have any religion as No religion teaches one to be a terrorist and go against humanity.Recommend

  • Mahnoor

    I also like how the fourth season appears to be about the consequences of drone strikes!
    Hope it’s just as exciting as the previous ones.Recommend

  • Mahnoor

    …Homeland’s second and third seasons center around an Israeli attack on Iran.
    How the hell is that show anti-Iranian?
    The only Iranian agent shown throughout the series is a SAVAK agent who’s double-timing for the Revolutionary Guard and basically, a rat.
    He KILLS Iranians.
    He KILLS Americans.
    He’s a friggin terrorist.

    Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    You are joking right? It is one of the most Islamophobic and racist shows ever. It’s stereotypes of Arabs are so appalling that even Arab Christians have been protesting against it.

    @ ammar: LOL. Yes if they could mess up a liberal city like Beirut Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    If there is a TV show about Terror, does anyone think it should show non Muslims as Terrorists?

    Please accept there is something wrong, rather than accusing others of Islamophobia. Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Homeland is looking at the wrong country.. It’s not Iran which is he epicenter of Terror.Recommend

  • UnClench Pls !

    Oh,relax ! Stop looking for insults and enjoy the show..or change the channel.Recommend

  • Fahad T Khan

    Although i agree on most of what is being but unfortunately Homeland is an adapataion (not original)…. I guess the author was not paying much attention when watching it (the credits)… So if some one can miss that important detail in the analysis, i guess its better to debunk it completely. We in pakistan already have enough of the half scholars and i think we dont need another one!

    However homeland is one of my fav shows! And yes in case you are worrying it is an adaptaion of the “Prisoner of War” an Israeli series!Recommend

  • JayMankind

    These shows may use some artistic license to exaggerate things. But overall, the theme is not too far off the mark. There is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed and the direction of Islamic youth needs to be recalibrated. Introspection rather than denial is the order of the day. Living and adjusting with the times is an imperative.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Wait a second, are you saying that only Muslims can be terrorists? Think about it. Recommend

  • kafir

    *No religion teaches one to be a terrorist and go against humanity.* This statement is factually incorrectRecommend

  • saswath

    sorry not true about every religion.Recommend

  • saswath

    not exactly but today’s scenario speak differently. something is gone wrong…not entire believers are same but a huge fraction indeed running towards extremism.Recommend

  • saswath

    or attitude…or being extremist..try to be human ..respect all ..it will help more.Recommend

  • Jonbon Jovi

    I have seen many shows which depict non muslims as terrorists,
    Criminal Minds
    Blacklist
    Sleeper Cell
    The Agency
    Also there is a plethora of movies

    The Dark Knight rises
    Captain America
    etc etcRecommend

  • Aamir – Toronto

    Please explain to me, if Israel isn’t a terrorist state then why are we seeing killing of innocent children and women in Palestine ???Recommend