Muslims and the Pursuit of Justice

bones

“Bones: The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” opens with on obnoxious suburban crowd at a luau, joking they can’t see why gay people would want something as terrible as marriage and proclaiming the American Dream is dead. They soon discover a body and the Bones investigation team is called in. I choose to take a look at this episode because Dr. Arastoo Vaziri gets more lines than usual and other critical scholars have examined how Muslims are portrayed in this episode.

One of the most interesting components is that Dr. Vaziri reveals he has been faking an Arab accent after being pressed by his boss about the ethics of sorting some pig bones. Its humorous to watch as he switches between having an accent and not, as different technicians walk in and out of the room. His boss visits the team psychiatrist and mentions she at first thought he was a terrorist, then settled on him being crazy because it would make more sense to fake an American accent if he was a terrorist. What I like about this is how obvious the solution to the viewer is, just ask the Muslim what they want and why they are faking an accent. Dr. Vaziri reveals it is simply a way to deflect questioning about his religion interfering with being a scientist, because Americans would expect an “immigrant Iranian to cling to his superstitions”.

By casting a Muslim as a scientist they do break many stereotypes, and show a greater diversity than simply terrorist or human rights abuser however they do fall into another trap. Aymen Fadel, blogger over at Muslim Media Review, gave the show an excellent thoughtful review. My primary problem is that while appreciating the diversity(24, NCIS etc.), there is already a trend of casting Muslims in law and order positions. While this isn’t inherently bad, it does speak to a post 9/11 phenomena where to demonstrate ones non-terrorism, they at some point have to actually try and stop terrorists. This standard is never applied to Christians, and creates somewhat of a token effect. It casts this conflict between law and order as an all encompassing conflict where Muslims cannot be sidelined and still avoid suspicion.

When I say law and order I definitely don’t mean the long running crime drama that does an across the board terrible job at casting Muslim characters. I mean the idea that there are people who break the law and those who uphold it and nothing in between and the eternal struggle clearly defines who is good and bad. There are lots of people who go through their entire lives barely engaging in this dichotomous conflict and many of them are Muslim. To be clear, I thought the show was pretty great and think they did a good job, I hope they add more Muslim characters who might be more tangential to the eternal struggle for justice.

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