Homeland’s Implausible Take on Islamic Radicalization
Showtime's terrorism drama presents a delusional fantasy about the roots of jihad.
October 7, 2012 - 7:00 am
“We wanted to, as much as possible, decouple the association between terrorism and Islam,” declares Gordon. The “decoupling” is performed by portraying Brody’s conversion to Islam as purely spiritual. “You live in despair for eight years, you might turn to religion, too. And the King James Bible was not available,” Brody tells Carrie. Islam “wasn’t a stepping-stone toward any terrorist behavior. It was a way of maintaining his sanity…,” notes Ganza. Brody may be both a Muslim and a terrorist, but he’s not a terrorist solely because he is Muslim.
Rather than “decoupling” Islam from terrorism, the bias is re-enforced since Brody turns out to be both. Although we first learn that Brody is a Muslim, and only discover in a later episode that he is a terrorist, setting these two events in different episodes does little to “decouple” them. The producers hope that if viewers spend some time contemplating only his Muslim faith, it will engender the perception that Brody’s transformation into a terrorist is entirely coincidental to his newfound religion.
The storyline errs in its eagerness to convey that the zeal for avenging injustice has more staying power than religious motivation, which remains the elephant in the living room of Homeland. Brody is not a jihadist but a seeker of vengeance with a “legitimate grievance,” extending beyond his release and driving his actions. However, absent the religious component, the goal of empathy with jihadists fails, since they do commit terror in the name of their religion, Islam.
This concept of an anti-American terrorist who is only incidentally Muslim isn’t the only thing about Brody that makes little real-world sense. The hope of retribution supplants the hope of reuniting with loved ones, widely recognized as vital to surviving captivity. Following his release, Brody is indifferent to his family and even has an affair with the CIA agent tracking him. By contrast, the Israeli POW emphasizes the crucial role of hope when a fiancé who since married is asked to remove her wedding ring and reside in another home to ameliorate the returning POW’s rehabilitation.