You can’t be a devoted watcher of Fox TV’s “24” and not have questions — about the suitcase nuke attack on Los Angeles, or the fatal neck bite Jack Bauer puts on a terrorist, among other outrageous plot twists.

Toqeer A. Chouhan, a 28-year-old Atlanta attorney and Muslim, is no exception.

But his queries run deeper.

“Why is there not a Syrian bad guy or Lebanese bad guy being mentioned?” asks Chouhan, who was born and raised here and who describes himself as a “huge” fan of “24.”

“Instead, they are just using the broad category of ‘Islamic terrorists’ to talk about the events taking place. If many of these shows were actually sensitive in trying to be fair in their depiction of Muslims, there would be more of an effort made to try and disconnect the terrorist actions from the actual religion of Islam.”

For several years television shied away from story lines connected to Sept. 11, 2001. Now, five years later, things have changed. Scripted television programs no longer avoid terrorism-related story lines. Muslim characters are increasingly commonplace, mostly in a negative way.

From episodes of “The Unit” and “Without a Trace” to the upcoming BBC America miniseries “The State Within,” it appears any Muslim who isn’t a terrorist is suspected of being one. Or a sympathizer.

“There really are no other images of Muslims in the media now,” says Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which worked with Fox two years ago on a public service announcement that aired during “24.” But Ahmed says her group was somewhat surprised by the intensity of this story line, featuring a string of attacks on U.S. cities by Islamic militants.

“People frame it as a freedom of speech issue, and we support that. But these portrayals have real consequences on how people view Muslims.”


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