|Yes, I am the bad guy. Cue the creepy|
Middle Eastern flute music.
The most important Muslim character of this season in terms of plot is its antagonist, Abu Fayed. Keeping with tradition, 24 casts an American of Greek ancestry, Adoni Maropis, who does what he can with a role that devolves into one-dimensional villainy.
Fayed is physically and vocally imposing, and yet, as with Ahmed, his motivations are muddled and underwritten compared with the depth of season five’s Western villains. Additionally, unlike season four’s Habib Marwan, he is never given a chance to explain himself or allow the viewer time to examine his reasoning. While those other villains had episodes centered on their character’s development, Fayed becomes clouded with conservative sound bites meant to instill hatred, fear, and misunderstanding of Islam.
Fayed is presented in the first episode with typical Middle Eastern music. He is lean, muscular, and moves with authority. He and his men are smart, threatening, and after revealing he is behind the attacks, he is quite terrifying. When CTU discovers Fayed’s betrayal, Nadia asks him in Arabic, “Where is your honor?” As 24’s main villain, he, by default, has none.
When Jack escapes Fayed, Fayed plans to stop his attacks and find Bauer, but one of his men reminds him, “We’re not here to kill one American. We’re here to kill thousands.” The man never says why. Later that episode while outfitting a suicide subway bomber with an explosive vest (as typical Middle Eastern music plays), Fayed tells him, “When the time comes even the most devout experience fear. By overcoming your fear, you prove your worth. I am proud to have known you in this life.” His words have religious overtones, but 24 has yet to state what they mean to Fayed or his men. Because of this hesitation, unfound in Habib Marwan who declared his motives from the outset, Entertainment Weekly ravaged these lines “[24’s villains are] extremists with suitcase nukes and bad dialogue, like ‘Once again the streets are flowing with blood!’” (Flynn). As episodes continue, Fayed increasingly becomes a caricature. Eventually even his dialogue is limited to grunts, growls, and one-word responses.
|Not even four angry Muslims can hold Jack Bauer for long.|
24 goes to great lengths to depict Fayed’s inherent violence and disregard for human life. After detonating the nuclear bomb, he plans to detonate more, but his explosives expert is killed in first the blast (not that he cares). Needing someone to reprogram the triggers on the remaining nukes, he has Morris O’Brian, one of the show’s newest and most popular characters, kidnapped. Of course, Morris refuses to reprogram these triggers. What results are two episodes of what the Parents’ Television Council branded as the worst hours on TV in those weeks. Fayed tortures Morris with pistol-whips, baseball bats, drowning, and, most disgustingly, a power drill.
When Morris gives in, Fayed arms a bomb and leaves with orders for his men to execute Morris and follow him. Of course, CTU saves Morris, but Fayed escapes.
|Morris gets Fayed's point drilled home...|
Fayed meets the Russian, Dmitri Gredenko, in the Nevada desert, and like Assad and the Ambassador, wilts before Caucasian authority. Before Fayed arrives, one of Gredenko’s men asks the former general, “You still think you can trust the Arabs?”
Gredenko shrugs. “They serve their purpose.” He claims the USSR lost the Cold War because of their fear to use nuclear weapons. “Today we will correct that mistake and the Arabs will take all the blame.”
Fayed further loses his villainous power by becoming Gredenko’s pawn. Although he still believes he has control, Fayed’s threat to viewers continues to unravel. He appears stupid and naïve, the ‘animal’ Curtis Manning called Assad earlier in the season.
Fayed and Gredenko argue over who is helping whom. Gredenko claims he is responsible for Fayed’s success as he possesses technological know-how. Later, Gredenko tells his men, “I’ll be glad when we no longer have to deal with these people. They’re living in the dark ages and they act like they own the world.”
|Yes, this drunken Russian knows how to operate nuclear|
equipment. It's all in the slicked back hair and the beard.
Though spoken by a villain, this line maintains the Orientalist myth that Muslims are a desert people, conjuring images of camels, tents, dancing girls, and foolish, arrogant brutes.
After the first nuclear drone fails, Fayed tries to kill Gredenko, but the Russian reminds him that he is the only one who can detonate the remaining bombs. Fayed, who watched Gredenko set up the first drone, apparently cannot clip a few wires together, push a button, and fly the drone with a video game joystick. Either the writers forgot Fayed’s knowledge of nuclear bombs, trigger devices, and, in a short scene after his escape from Bauer, aeronautics (he flew a helicopter), or they purposefully maintained his ‘backwardness’. He and his people are ‘analogs’ in a digital world.
Jack, with the help of Gredenko, captures Fayed. Gredenko’s betrayal serves only to get Fayed in Jack’s hands, to allow the viewer a release as Jack viciously tortures him with the help of CTU agent Mike Doyle. Here is the scene where Fayed’s motivations are revealed. Fayed, after Jack tortures him, remains silent. Doyle offers to help. “No,” Jack says, “he wants us to martyr him.” While Jack talks to CTU on the phone, Doyle gives Fayed a speech:
You really think you’re going to be remembered as some great
martyr for your people, Fayed? Yeah, you blew up a little city
today and you killed a lot of people, but let’s face it: it’s going
to be of no real political significance. Let me tell you what’s going
to happen. Your number two guy, once he realizes you’re out of the
picture, he’s gonna take the remaining suitcase nukes and blow up a
substantial target, something that’s really gonna hurt this country, and
if by some chance he succeeds, he’s gonna be the hero of your jihad
and you will be forgotten. Is that what you want?
Fayed looks up at Doyle and replies: “Do you honestly believe you can manipulate me by playing on my vanity? I serve the will of God!” Aha! If Fayed believes he serves God, then so do all 24’s villainous Muslims. They fight the same ‘war’ with the West using their bastard faith.
|"Oh, boy, guys! Now, can I say my typical Muslim|
terrorist bad guy speech?"
In the climax, Fayed escapes Bauer and Doyle, meets with his men, and orders they ready the last nuclear bomb as typical Middle Eastern music flares. “We’re going to finish this! We’re going to take out downtown Los Angeles!”
Unbeknownst to Fayed, Bauer had ridden below the garbage truck Fayed used for his escape. Jack shoots Fayed’s men (who cannot hit a target in a white shirt less than ten yards from them). After missing Bauer with every bullet, Fayed runs out as well. The two men tackle each other and enact one of the best fights in 24 history. As much as he tries, however, Fayed cannot defeat Jack, who wraps a chain around his neck and hangs him from the ceiling, telling him: “Say hello to your brother.” Fayed’s death is a perfect representation of 24’s Muslims: choked, unable to speak, silenced by a Western authority that demands the last word.
|In the end, Fayed feels all chained up. I'll be here all week, folks!|
Here is the dichotomy. If Jack represents American values, then Fayed must represent his opposite, everything and anything America will not tolerate. As the season unfolds, it is revealed Fayed has teenage soldiers in American suburbs (Ahmed), the Islamic citizenry’s backing (Salhib), and the support of some and maybe all members of his native country, especially its government (the Ambassador). Though Fayed is radical, 24 condemns all Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, as guilty by association. When it finally allows Fayed to state his motivations, it lays terrorism at the feet of his people and a faith that does not profess it.
In Part 8, I’ll examine one of the show’s secondary characters, Nadia Yassir.
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