Since its first episode, “Homeland,” which returns Sunday, has churned out Islamophobic stereotypes as if its writers were getting paid by the cliché
A blonde, white Red Riding Hood lost in a forest of faceless Muslim wolves: This is how “Homeland’s” creators have chosen to represent their show as it begins its fourth season, which sees CIA officer Carrie Mathison stationed in Pakistan. It is also the perfect encapsulation of everything that’s wrong with this show.
Since its first episode, “Homeland,” which returns Sunday, has churned out Islamophobic stereotypes as if its writers were getting paid by the cliché. Yet the show, created by “24” veterans Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa and former Israeli paratrooper Gideon Raff, continues to rack up awards, critical praise and millions of viewers.
For starters, the show is riddled with basic errors about Islam and the Middle East. Laila Al Arian points out some of the more obvious ones: You don’t need to bury the Koran after someone’s dropped it on the ground; Issa, the son of terrorist leader Abu Nazir, has his name mispronounced by everyone on the show; Roya Hammad — there to remind us that even a Westernized, business-suit-wearing Arab is not to be trusted — is supposedly Palestinian but has a Persian first name.
More broadly, “Homeland” carelessly traffics in absurd and damaging stereotypes. The show hit peak idiocy, for instance, at the beginning of season two, when Beirut’s posh Hamra Street was depicted as a grubby generic videogame universe of Scary Muslims in which Mathison must disguise herself to avoid detection. The real Hamra Street is a cosmopolitan, expat-filled area near the American University, where Western chains like Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s compete for customers and no one would look twice at a blonde, blue-eyed white woman with uncovered hair. Islam itself is presented as sinister and suspicious: Brody secretly prays in his garage to foreboding music, and an imam who’s outraged that worshippers were shot during a police operation at his mosque turns out to be hiding information about Brody’s fellow POW-turned-terrorist Tom Walker…