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Hamra Street in Beirut – a terrifying and utterly foreign place? (Photo by Flickr user 3ammo)

Spoiler alert. (That’s fun to say, since I hardly ever watch TV!)

I watched the first season of “Homeland,” and have now watched the first two episodes of the second season. As a spy thriller, I love it. But are we ever going to hear something positive about Islam? All good words are in the mouths of people who are either terrorists or being fooled by terrorists. Even the “saint” imam at the DC mosque would not tell the whole truth. The “good” Muslim CIA agent is a tiny character, and is a mix of Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds. The preppy woman who grew up as an ARAMCO kid and loves a Saudi was a terrorist. On “Homeland” the American people have seen Muslim prayer close up multiple times, far more than almost any of them have ever seen it before. Each time these prayers have been offered by terrorists.

The opener of the second season was even more unhelpful to an American’s understanding of Islam. Brody’s daughter (in Quaker meeting at what is obviously Sidwell Friends) argues against anti-Arab prejudice, but is unknowingly defending a traitor. Brody’s wife says, “These are the people who tortured you” and throws the Qur’an on the ground. She’s terrified his Muslim faith means he’s still crazy – and, indeed, he is, and worse. Brody and his daughter bond over his burying of the desecrated Qur’an – once again, learning about Islam from a terrorist. We discover that both Abu Nazir and the Arab-American seductress reporter are from Palestinian refugee families – thus reinforcing the specific idea of Palestinians as the enemy, beyond their Arab and Muslim identities. Then the second episode, Hamra Street in Beirut is portrayed as a broken-down shooting gallery. Last spring, at least, it was a lovely shopping street where we stayed. (I highly recommend the 35 Rooms Hotel.)

I’ll be interested to watch “Hatufim,” the Israeli series on which “Homeland” is based, and see what of this comes from that show.

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