24 Public Service Announcement
So begins a new public service announcement that aired Monday night during this week's episode of the hit action series. In his on-camera appearance with a city skyline in the background, Sutherland goes on to say that while terrorism is a critical challenge to America and the world, it is also important to know that the American Muslim community denounces and resists all forms of terrorism, too.
"So, in watching 24, please bear that in mind."
The disclaimer is Fox TV's latest effort to appease an American Muslim community upset over 24's ongoing plotline this year in which a ruthless Middle Eastern-looking family is seen conspiring to engineer a devastating meltdown at several U.S. nuclear power plants.
The ad is a second step in Fox's equal-time campaign. Last month, the network agreed to send two other PSAs - produced by the Washington-based lobby group Council on American-Islamic Relations - to its own and affiliate stations to air either within or in proximity to the weekly 24 telecast. In those ads, ordinary citizens identify themselves as American Muslims and assure that they are "part of the fabric of this great country and are working to build a better America."
A Toronto-based Fox spokesperson says, however, that to the best of her knowledge and despite Internet rumours to the contrary, the network has not made any edits to this season's episodes of scenes that would be deemed to portray negative stereotypes. She says that the Sutherland spot was never offered outside the U.S., including to Global Television, which simulcasts 24 in Canada.
But now the Canadian branch of CAIR says it is firing off a letter to Global asking the broadcaster to carry the Sutherland PSA or to produce something similar in this country, preferably also by Sutherland, who is Canadian.
Riad Saloojee, executive director of CAIR Canada in Ottawa, concedes it has not been as involved as its U.S. counterpart in the stereotype issue but that it's clear the potential negative effect of the portrayal of American Muslims on shows like 24 might also affect Canadian Muslims.
"Much of the imagery and sometimes even the raw atmosphere in the United States does percolate down to Canada," Saloojee said Wednesday. "It certainly hasn't been as serious as it has been in the United States in terms of discrimination of Muslims in Canada. But much of the concerns are parallel."
And that, he says, includes the idea that American Muslims provide a base for domestic terrorism.
"The theme of Muslims being a fifth column within Canada is a fairly common theme. . .that idea has been peddled with a fair amount of frequency since 9/11 and that's precisely the concern about 24."
In Monday's episode, a fanatical terrorist, part of a sleeper cell, agrees to kill his own wife and son because they are seen as not committed to the nuclear plot and even as threats to expose it. This, even though the mother, in an earlier episode, fatally poisoned her son's non-Muslim American girlfriend to eliminate her as a possible witness.
Meanwhile, the issue has been the subject of heated debate within Internet chat rooms, including one attached to the official 24 website.
Most of the dialogue is from avid defenders of the show, including a viewer who identifies herself as a resident of the Toronto area and who dismisses the complaints, fearing her favourite TV series is in danger of being watered down.
"If the Muslim viewers want to rant and rave that they are being discriminated against, the rest of us certainly have the right to stand up and defend what we believe in," writes CanuckAngel.
Wrote Mr. Lucky522: "There have been many shows with many Hispanics and Blacks as the main criminal character or enemy, yet these ethnic groups have not complained or set forward any protest. The whole thing about being politically correct is getting out of hand." [/i]
Personally I say there doesn't need to be a service annoncement - I'm east indian (not Muslim) but this is fiction - there is alot of fiction out there for other religions that can be viewed as offending....
Anyway just wanted your opinion...