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It couldn’t have gotten any worse on “24” when the first of five nuclear bombs was detonated, presumably by Muslim terrorists. And so the eagerly anticipated season began, with Muslim extremists as the villain this time around. There’s been a venerable smorgasborg of baddies on “24,” the popular Fox drama that follows agent Jack Bauer, a one-man terrorist-fighting machine who each season races madly to try and avert some major disaster over the span of just 24 hours.

“24’s” mix of bad guys has included “shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the Anglo-American president of the United States,” the network said in a press release. But the American Muslim community is up in arms again this year over the bad guys being Muslims, as was the case two seasons earlier.

But is it really that big a deal? Of course being Muslim myself, I cringe when I see Muslim terrorists being trotted out as the villain du jour in any movie or television show. But many Muslim advocacy groups are taking this a step further: “The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“After watching [“24″], I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn’t sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality,” Ahmed said in a CNN.com article.

Come on. I will probably draw the ire of many Muslims and Islamic groups by saying this, but we may be taking the power of a television show too seriously here. Granted, in a time when Muslims are sensitive to negative depictions of their faith and people–and rightly so–I can see why CAIR and other groups are wagging their finger at Fox for making Muslims the villains of the show again this season.

But at the same time, the choice of the typical villain in film and television follows the trajectory of who is deemed the “enemy” during that time. So in the 1980s, when we were in Cold War with the former Soviet empire, Russians were the bad guys in most films. At other times, when there was much attention on the growing illegal drug problem in the U.S., television and film gave us stereotypical Hispanic drug dealers to hiss at.

And now, sadly, Muslim extremists get those roles. It’s not the way I, or millions of other non-extremist Muslims want it, but that’s what happens in Hollywood. Does this mean we should just accept every show and film that chooses to make Muslims the bogeyman? No. We just have to pick our battles–fight the fight where there will be an impact. Like when Muslims protested Bruce Willis’s 1998 movie, “The Siege.”

“24” is not a one-season show. Jack Bauer is in it for the long haul, and through the years he has fought a whole slew of dastardly demons. Some years it is a devious U.S. president and other years it is Muslim extremists. Let’s be fair: The show does cover some topics of importance to Muslims, including the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo-type detention centers, the loss of Muslims’ civil rights, and racial profiling.

The bottom line is that, like many other Muslims who take pride in their faith, I hate to see the minor, extremist population of Islam get face time. But that’s what Hollywood does, and it’s not the biggest battle Muslims have to fight. There’s a lot more there to worry about than “24.” And Jack is an awfully compelling hero to watch.

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