Muslim hero

good muslimI’ve caught most of Showtime’s Sleeper Cell. The 10-hour miniseries follows an Al Qaeda terrorist group in Los Angeles and the FBI agent who infiltrates it.

Permit me to get my complaints out of the way. The show suffers from too much exposition. In a desperate bid to cater to the whims of the politically correct, the terror cell has fewer Arabs than non-Arab Muslims. This includes a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Californian; a French ex-skinhead; a Bosnian and a Black American Muslim. And to take advantage of being on cable, the nudity and premarital sex is more fitting of the Sopranos than a show about Muslims.

But I have been sucked in for two reasons: Michael Ealy and Michael Ealy. I kid. But the actor who plays the Muslim hero who infiltrates the terror cell is incredibly easy on the eyes.

On a less shallow note, the show has highlighted something that I wish reporters and editors would pay attention to. Apart from the artistic merits or lack thereof, it provides a valuable news service by showing the difference between the violent Islam of the terrorists and the Islam of the FBI agent.

At a time when every politician repeats the mantra that Islam is a religion of peace, even the most culturally unaware American knows that the September 11 hijackers were Muslim, the July 7 London bombers were Muslim, the Madrid bombers were Muslim, the kids who rioted in Paris earlier this fall were Muslim, Osama bin Laden is Muslim, etc.

People aren’t stupid. Or, if they are, they still understand that there is something that all these folks have in common. What Sleeper Cell does is show various interpretations of Islam. And with the current climate, learning more about Islam is good.

Which brings me to the media analysis. Detroit Free Press writer David Crumm wrote about Sleeper Cell last week before it debuted. His story describing the show and community reaction to it is genuinely interesting:

In the first hour alone, the troubling images include a Muslim father killing his teenaged daughter for sleeping with a boyfriend and Muslims burying a friend, who they believe has betrayed them, to his neck and stoning him to death as he screams for mercy.

The Free Press hosted a screening this week for Alawan, two other adults and a religiously diverse group of seven seniors from Salem High School in Canton.

Afterward, all three adults called the series disturbing and said they hope no one sees it. But all of the students said they’ll recommend it to friends, mainly because of a key detail that appeared to mean much more to them than to the adults.

The teenagers noticed that “Sleeper Cell” is the first major TV series with a Muslim hero. Darwyn al-Sayeed (played by actor Michael Ealy) joins the terrorist cell, but viewers find out that he is an FBI agent trying to stop the terrorists.

Crumm’s story doesn’t just take national story and make it local, it doesn’t just find a new and creative way of reviewing television, it is also illuminating. It would be interesting for other reporters to look at how youth and adults react to seeing Muslim heros in various media.

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  • Stephen A.

    It sounds interesting – until/unless it goes full tilt into PC-land with these characters, perhaps, in a critical moment in the show, going AWOL from any kind of reality.

    For instance, I can just see one future episode in which the FBI agent becomes downright sympathetic to the terrorists after hearing from the blue-eyed Californian how “just” their struggle against mean old America is.

    A blue-eyed Californian seemed ludicrous in a Muslim sleeper cell. But then I read at the show’s Website that the character is “born and raised in Berkeley, California, the son of husband and wife liberal college professors.” Uh, oh.

    Something tells me there are at least a few leftists out there who would join in on a planned terror attack on “evil, capitalist, theocratic” America. Like the rather high-strung woman who went to Peru to join the Communist guerillas.

    But will this show highlight the terrorists’ dirty deeds and malicious intentions, or will it become a platform for spouting anti-American, Anti-Christian hate every week? I don’t subscribe to this channel. Maybe someone can update it here.

  • Chris H.

    You must pardon me if I admit outright that Showtime is definately not a source I’ll be looking towards for unbiased and nuanced look at ANY issue.

    Showtime has been the home of some of the most intense anti-Christian, dispicable and raunchy programs to be had on cable network television in the last 5 years.

    If you want a show that deals with a current event and feels racey and entertaining, fine and dandy, perhaps ‘Sleeper Cell’ fits the bill. But I’d be extremely weary of taking anything significant away from it.

  • Tim G.


    “September 11 hijackers were Muslim, the July 7 London bombers were Muslim, the Madrid bombers were Muslim, the kids who rioted in Paris earlier this fall were Muslim, Osama bin Laden is Muslim, etc.”

    Likewise, the 9/11 hijackers were Arab. The 7/7 bombers were Arab, the Madrid bombers were Arab, the Parisian rioters were Arab, and Osama is Arab (I’m not racist, keep on reading for my point).

    I am glad that the producers, by “catering to the whims of the politically correct”, did not cast the terrorists as brown-skinned Muslims or to conform to a certain look. It would have only reinforced notions that terroristic Muslims look a certain way.

    I’m Christian, and I’m Indian. Nevertheless, that doesn’t prevent some people from thinking that Indians look like terrorists. What people see on tv, they will believe in real life. That terror cell may have looked ridiculous, but I think that ridiculousness was not out of place.

    Unfortunately, people can be stupid.

    Just my two cents :)

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    Stephen A: Something tells me there are at least a few leftists out there who would join in on a planned terror attack on “evil, capitalist, theocratic” America.

    What, like Timothy McVeigh?

    (By the way, what do mean by “theocratic America”? A Freudian slip, perhaps?)

  • shari

    come off it with the timothy. he has said he was not a christian at his execution he refused a catholic priest. he said he was an atheist. there are no constant threat from domestic terrorist. they dont want to nuke america

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    I didn’t make any reference to McVeigh’s religion; I was just making a counterpoint to Stephen’s jihadi leftists. Such jihadi leftists may of course actually exist – but it seems enough for Stephen that you can be imagined by him doing something bad in order for the denunciations to flow forth.

  • http://beccaandbella.blogspot.com/ Becca

    very helpful post … I am fascinated by the way America is “processing” the emergence of radical Islam. I just hope we are aware of the tremendous threat it could become to our children’s generation and beyond. I would like to think that Islam could be a religion of peace (and I am certain that there are individual Muslims who are peaceful) but the continuing violence convinces me otherwise.

  • Michael

    Interesting that so many think that radical Islam is only “emerging” in the last few decades, when in reality, Islam has been radical and violent since it’s inception.

    The peaceful muslim is actually the one who is taking the teachings of the Koran and doing something new and radical with it. It is amazing how historically ignorant most Americans are when it comes to the muslim faith.

  • Stephen A.

    Some like to bring up the McVeigh thing over and over again to somehow draw attention away from more recent history, but the analogy is a weak one. It’s pretty obvious we’re not under attack by an international conspiracy of neo-Nazi white skinheads, driven by Christian fundamentalism and bent on mass destruction.

    Just being honest about who we are fighting against – extremist Muslims who care little for life and who don’t speak for their religion – isn’t some kind of attack on Islam, as some are trying to portray.

    With this kind of “whites are terrorists, too” attitude being bandied about, it’s easy to see how the mainstream media often doesn’t “get” what’s going on these days.

  • Michael

    It’s pretty obvious we’re not under attack by an international conspiracy of neo-Nazi white skinheads, driven by Christian fundamentalism and bent on mass destruction.

    Tell that to the families of people who died in Oklahoma City or at the Atlanta Olympics bombings or the bombings of abortion clinics and gay bars. Or the people whose churches and synagogues have been torched.

    Tell that to people who are afraid to put Jewish-sounding names on their mailboxes in Idaho and Arkansas and Missouri where there is a heavy white-supremecist, Christian-identity movement.

  • Stephen A.

    Michael, are you trying to say the war that the Islamofascists are waging on Western civilization is equal to a few rowdy skinhead youths in the U.S.?

    McVeigh is NOT equal to Bin Laden. Sorry. Nor do the nutty fringe nazi groups here (whose ranks must count well into the dozens of nazi teenagers, nationwide) merit anything near the media analysis we SHOULD be getting about the millions of Muslim fanatics and their religious motivations.

    The Left truly needs to wake up on this issue and stop trying to play games using “impassioned” but misguided rhetoric.

  • Michael

    I’m not trying to link “Islamofascism” — talk about your overdrawn rhetoric — to the Christian identity movement. Clearly, Islamic extremists are much more dangerous and insideous.

    What I am saying, however, is that there are extremists within lots of religious movements, including Christianity. Throughout the ages, millions have died at the hands or for the causes of Christian extremists. Eric Rudoplh, the Olympics bomber who also attacked abortion clinics and gay bars, was connected to Christian extremist groups and was celebrated by that movement (which is much more than a dozen neo-Nazi teens).

    There is a rush by many to paint all of Islam and all Muslims with being “Islamofascists.” I am merely pointing out that we wouldn’t want that same brush applied to us, given the history of atrocities committed at the hands of Christians.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/chaz_lehmann Chaz Lehmann

    Mollie,

    You hit my opinion on the series on the head, basically in every way.

    I do really wonder which sort of Islam in the series is the one that is most faithful to the Qu’ran.

    I have my suspicions, but that’s all they are.

  • Stephen A.

    Stating that extremists exist in all groups is a truism that really doesn’t mean anything, isn’t really debatable, and isn’t the issue at hand.

    While a very few were rushing to call ALL Muslims extremists after 9/11, few in the media (if any?) did so or are now doing so. On the other hand, many are rushing to equate Muslim extremists with all other kinds of extremism, as you did again, Michael. Your rush to moral equivalancy is a bit off, but the political motivations for it are crystal clear.

    The fact is that organized, effective “neonazi terror cells” are really non-existent, thanks to the FBI and BATF’s good work over the years. Maybe work on ending Islamic extremist cells has gone just as well and we simply don’t know about it publicly, but most suspect that not enough has been done to stop them.

    Back to the point – I guess kudos are actually due to Showtime for at least portraying an extremist Muslim terror cell at all, even with the unrealistic PC concession of showing blue-eyed terrorists alongside them. It’s almost the first time ANY Muslims have been portrayed as terrorists since 9/11 on TV or in the movies. PC foolishness run amok.

  • Maureen

    Eric Rudolph believes in Nietzsche, not the Bible. He said so.

    Neo-Nazi groups have this tiny little tendency not to be Christian, either. Possibly because Hitler turned against Christianity, hmm?

    Do keep your extremist groups straight. Even groups in alliance may have serious ideological differences. Painting them all with the brush of your own fears is just silly. I realize it’s not a pleasant thing to expend brain cells on folks like this, but if you’re going to use them in argument….


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