After a one-year hiatus in which Russians were granted the honor of being 24's Ethnic Group Hellbent on Wiping Out Our Nation, Muslims find themselves cast as the [spoiler alert, if you haven't seen the premiere] nuke-detonating fanatics charged with bedeviling Jack Bauer and his CTU pals this season, prompting an American-Islamic relations advocacy group who once pleaded with Fox to give them a break to renew their protests over Muslims' portrayal on the show. The AP reports that Fox issued a statement late Wednesday night answering the criticism, reassuring concerned parties that they're committed to dramatizing that true believers of any background are capable of depopulating Cerritos with an improvised nuclear device:
"24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism," the statement read. "After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical.
"Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States," the network said. "The show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints."
Sohail Mohammed, a New Jersey immigration lawyer who represented scores of detainees caught up in the post Sept. 11, 2001 dragnet, watched the episode depicting the nuclear attack with an Associated Press reporter.
"I was shocked," he said. "Somewhere, some lunatic out there watching this will do something to an innocent American Muslim because he believes what he saw on TV."
The premiere episode isn't doing Fox any favors in deflecting criticisms like this one, as it depicts a neighborhood vigilante, distressed over a wave of supposedly Muslim-initiated bombings, attacking the one Arab-American on his block out of fear he's a terrorist—which, of course, he's quickly proven to be. Fox might need to release another statement clarifying to any viewers with reality-discernment problems that should they stumble away from their television sets with a hunger for vigilantism, the first neighbor they senselessly attack will almost certainly not be somebody who's involved in a hopelessly convoluted terror plot, as such lucky coincidences require months of planning by a highly paid writing staff.