by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Islam on My Side
I felt my heart drop when my professor for “Mass Media and Society” announced that we were going to watch “24” for the entire three hours of class. It took me a moment to overcome the shock and sort things out in my mind: “This is the same ‘24’ I’m thinking about, right? The television show where American-Muslims are illegally locked up in detention centers?” After self-confirmation, I confidently raised my hand.
“May I ask why we’re watching ‘24’?” I asked politely.
My professor kindly explained, “I believe ‘24’ had some positive influences on how the U.S. government treats prisoners and I also would argue that it played a huge role for the Obama campaign since the show has an African-American President. I really believe it helped prepare the country for that.” I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s what she basically said. I was sure she was referring to Guantanamo Bay when she mentioned the U.S. military’s treatment of prisoners, but it confused me how criticism of prisoner abuse would cancel out the show’s stereotypical portrayal of Muslims and Arabs as terrorists? And the Obama thing was just absurd in my opinion.
“It’s just odd to me,” I said, “because more than anything, I strongly feel that the show vilifies Muslims and the religion of Islam. These stereotypical images are very hurtful to the Muslim community.”
As I said this, I saw heads turning and eyes staring at me. I don’t know anyone in the class because we only meet once a week, so I wasn’t expecting any support, but after the professor responded and said something completely irrelevant to what I said, I couldn’t believe people remained silent.
She mentioned the film, “Crash,” and expressed that she felt discriminated against since there were no Jews in the film. My initial reaction was: what does that have to do with “24” and the representation of Muslims? Was she suggesting that every group is fairly misrepresented in the media or was she just trying to dodge my points? Continue reading