“A Muslim FBI Agent Is the Star in This Serie FBI, Challenging the Stereotypical way Muslim Men Are Generally Portrayed” (Jordan Moreau) turned out to be just another lie.
To give you a quick description, the series is about two co-workers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This elite unit uses all their intellect, talents, and technical expertise on major cases in order to keep New York and America safe. Agent Maggie Bell, American born into a multi-generational law enforcement family, commits deeply to the people she works with as well as those she protects. Her partner, Special Agent Omar Adom Zidan, also called O.A an Egyptian American Muslim. The episode I chose for today is episode number 12 “A New Dawn”. It talks about the assassination of an alt-right provocateur after giving a speech at a university in New York City. Meanwhile, Maggie and OA investigate the school's political groups and rely on OA's sister, Amira, for help (CBS).
The FBI show agrees but not entirely with Alsultany's arguments, in the book Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation, because if we take her saying and compare it to the episode, there are some similarities. For example, Alsultany says that regarding the 11th September attack, the media portrayed all Arabs and Muslims as either the bad Terrorists who have bad intentions towards America or as the good ones who side with the U.S and work with them. Their nationality should not prevent them from supporting the U.S.(10) Which is the case of this show: the Egyptian Muslim character was attributed the hero nickname only because he works for the FBI, to whom he swore to bring criminals to justice no matter who they are, in the goal of protecting America.
Furthermore, another point that connects to Alsultany is after the incident, the representation of Arabs and Muslims in the American media changed, especially for women. They passed from harem girls and belly dancers to veiled and oppressed individuals (3). To relate this to what happened in the episode, Amira, Omar’s sister, who so happens to study in the university where the attack took place, knew a girl invested in one of the extremely political groups. She could relate to this attack and offered to help the FBI by introducing special agent Maggie to this girl. However, Omar showed authority over her and completely rejected the idea and told her not to enroll herself (FBI 2019). This shows that whether Omar is a hero or not, the stereotype associated to Arab men will always follow him. To continue, the twist in this episode is that Omar ended up accepting his sister’s decision because of his American co-worker Maggie who gave him a weird look. This sends the message that someone must adhere to their qualities to deserve the title of a hero. So, in order to be a hero, you must, in a way, adopt an American identity.
Ultimately, even if this episode adheres to some of Alsultany post view of Arabs/Muslims after 9/11, except we should keep focusing on the positive portrayals and we should stop believing that the complex characterization of terrorists and valiant portrayals of patriotic Muslims. As Zeeko Zaki, the hero of this series, said that Arab-American actors are sick and tired of always playing the role of terrorists and crying mothers. So, when will this reach to an end?
· Moreau, Jordan. “'FBI' Star on Importance of 'Playing an Arab American Muslim as the Hero'.” Variety, 10 June 2019, https://variety.com/2019/tv/features/fbi-star-on-importance-of-playing-an-arab-american-muslim-as-the-hero-1203234817/.
· A new dawn. Directed by Terry Miller, FBI, 2019. Episode 12.
· “FBI on CBS .” CBS, 24 Sept. 2018, https://www.cbs.com/shows/fbi.
· Evelyn Alsultany. Introduction. Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. New York: New York University Press: 2012.