Showtime’s award-winning show Homeland has enjoyed tremendous success since it began in 2011, but it's also on the receiving end of severe criticism for its reductive portrayal of Muslims. Since the very first season, the writers have depicted Iran – and the Muslim world in general – as an enemy of the United States.
The hit show premiered its fifth season earlier this month, and its latest episode took protagonist Carrie Mathison to a refugee camp on the Lebanese/Syrian border. Although it started just like any other episode, things took an interesting turn for viewers who can decipher Arabic script when the lead character walked past a wall daubed with Arabic graffiti that read, “Homeland is racist.”
As it turns out, it wasn’t a coincidence at all.
The production company behind Homeland hired three Cairo-based street artists this June to make the set of the fake refugee camp on the outskirt of Berlin a bit more authentic. However, instead of putting up some pro-Assad nonsense as instructed, the group that identifies itself as “Arabian Street Artists” splayed the walls with puns criticizing the show and clever transliterations.
The artists – Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone – were frustrated with the show’s “inaccurate, undifferentiated, and highly biased depictions of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans.” Therefore, when they found out about this new gig, they were skeptical about working on the show, but once they realized they could paint subversive messages into the graffiti, they changed their minds.
The artists soon realized that producers weren’t paying any attention to their work, so seizing the chance, the trio adorned the Homeland set with Arabic graffiti reading, “Homeland is racist,” “Homeland is not a show,” “The situation is not to be trusted” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists.”
“The content of what was written on the walls … was of no concern, “the group claimed in a statement. “In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.”
The artists hope that people who watch the episode think about the artists’ message and realize that Muslims are not the enemy.
“We are attempting to highlight the danger that popular shows like this have on real people,” Amin explained. “Filled with stereotypes and inaccuracies, Homeland poses a threat by not only fueling racism and manipulating perspectives on a mass scale, but further plays a role in American foreign policy and the ways in which politics are conducted in our region.”
The creators of the hit drama have been slammed repeatedly for pigeonholing Muslims as terrorists, and although they have denied these accusations, the messages are now ironically painted on their very own walls.