In Memory of Fara (Homeland Rewatch S4.09-S4.12)

As my readers probably know by now, this is not my first time through Homeland. I think it is always interesting as a media scholar to return to something you once watched and attempt to think through the material using a more critical eye. One of the more harrowing scenes to experience in season four of Homeland is Fara’s death at the hands of Haqqani. There was a part of me that wondered, not only this time through watching but also the first, whether Fara’s death is meant to be seen as symbolic. Why would a character that arguably rounded out the Homeland cast for the better be written out?

Fara is a well liked character. She is kind, compassionate, and perhaps most importantly, serves as a foil to the extremist characters in Homeland against whom the CIA is so often in conflict. This, of course, places a lot of weight on Fara’s shoulders. For a show that has been criticized time and again for its negative depiction of Muslim characters, Fara served as a character that could reasonably counter those kinds of claims. fara gifAlthough, within the context of the show, her “everyday” moderate Muslim identity was far outnumbered by depictions of extremists, her extended story-line within the third and fourth season allowed the show to begin crawling out from underneath the mounting criticisms relating to Homeland‘s treatment of Muslim characters. As a result, the choice to kill off this character is not only surprising, but also begs an important question: Is Fara’s death of more importance than we might initially assume?

Although Homeland primarily centers around depicting terrorist activities performed against westerners, the reality of terror driven by extremists is that the majority of victims of these acts of terror are NOT westerners but, in fact, other Muslims. American and European individuals actually account for a very small number of victims when looking at terrorist activities more holistically. VOA News wrote a fairly comprehensive article in August of 2016 that outlines this data and even seeks to outline where many of these attacks take place in the Middle East and how these places align themselves (or not) with terrorist activity. In fact, the article suggests that many of the terror related deaths occur in countries “with widespread state-sponsored political violence, while 88 percent of attacks have occurred in places [experiencing] violent conflicts.” Clearly, this season of Homeland keeps consistent with this data, as there is a clear indication that the violence taking place in Islamabad is taking place as a result of collusion between the state and terrorist cells. Haqqani and Tasneem, for example, are implicated as co-conspirators against the Americans in this season.

The episode in which Fara is murdered highlights a conversation between Fara and Haqqani which suggests, as does the article from VOA News, that extremist violence is about much more than just religion. Fara, as a Muslim who disagrees with the aims of the terrorists (who also claim to be Muslim) becomes a symbol of the danger to Muslims who do not assimilate and adopt extremist attitudes and the hypocrisy inherent in the attitudes that these extremists espouse. max and faraHaqqani accuses Fara of helping to kill Muslims, an accusation that seems incredibly hypocritical the moment he chooses to kill Fara even after he gets what he wants (i.e. the list) and is even reiterated when Khan mentions to Tasneem that Haqqani is responsible for killing many of his men. Tasneem, in response to Khan’s claim, mentions that Haqqani’s actions are a result of the fact that he has been working with the Americans. Tasneem’s comment illustrates that the nature of the conflict is much more complicated than a clashing of religious ideology but also a clashing of ideologies, in general, between the East and West. Fara, in Haqqani’s eyes, has committed the same sin of alliance with the West and, as a result, he has labeled her a traitor to his cause and cannot allow her to live.

It would appear that Fara’s death can be understood as a symbolic illustration of the convoluted nature of terrorist activity and their relation to the Muslim community. A well liked character like Fara, dying at the hands of a known terrorist will make it difficult for any viewers who espouse the belief that “all Muslims are terrorists” to continue believing in that false line. Fara’s character exists to encourage viewers to eschew some of the more negative stereotypes related to Muslims and their unfair and overrepresented association with terrorism. Although it was unfortunate to see Fara go, I do think that this character’s death served to effectively illustrate the importance of divorcing a Muslim identity from the terrorist threat with which it is so often associated.

8 thoughts on “In Memory of Fara (Homeland Rewatch S4.09-S4.12)

  1. Although my own blog was mainly centered on Carrie, I couldn’t help but to interject my own thoughts on Fara’s death. I thought she was a good representation of a Muslim character, and frankly the only “positive” representation Homeland showcased for a character who was on the show for some time. So I think Homeland did a disservice in killing her off, and at the hands of a tyrannical “Muslim”. I do agree with you in that I believe Haggani killed her because he viewed her as a traitor to the Muslim faith and people. That is an interesting article you pointed to in your blog.

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  2. Marilyn I also focused on Fara’s death in my blog. I think her death signifies the anger Haqqani felt towards her. I also felt the tension as I watched the episode that there was no way he was going to let her live. I also thought it was interesting that when Haqqani first met Fara he asked her about her faith and then about her family. I think Homeland partially addresses the complexities of faith and terrorism, but instead of developing the significance of this issue, they simply killed her off. I think having Fara on the show added a new dimension to the show and they could have really had an opportunity to not only develop her character, but refute some of the claims that the show is biased towards Muslims. Bad job by Homeland.

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  3. Agree whole-heartedly with your post here. The show complicates matters more than many would like to believe. What I find interesting about almost all the articles we read denouncing the show as racist is that all of their examples come in the first two seasons. Seems as though the pundits were watching a few episodes during the initial run, grabbed their fodder, and moved on without giving the show much notice past the second season. It’s tough to make those grand sweeping claims about a television show during the first couple seasons when the show eventually runs for several more, makes this more complex over time, and works in the serial format that a show like Homeland does. Good lesson for us all not to stick our foot in our mouth about something we only follow for a short while and don’t really know too much about.

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    1. This of course creates a bit of a difficult situation for those of us who are blogging while watching the show for the first time! It is definitely an interesting point that making a snap judgement about a show early in its conception ignores the fact that it has potential to move toward more complexity as it finds its footing.
      I do think that Fara’s death was strategic on the part of the writers, but it also feels a little like it’s the easy way out in terms of wrapping up this character’s story arc. There was a lot of potential for interesting ways to go with Fara’s story, but I wonder to what extent the writers just didn’t know which direction to go with her character, or were simply uninterested in exploring it more.

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  4. Glad you brought in the statistical hyperlink. On another front, there’s been a lot of talk about how public Muslim intellectuals opposed to violence have been targeted by the extremist groups to the point that they are intimidated about speaking out. In a way, the death of Fara is simply a symbolic working out of this fissure in modern Islam. Still, I am a little grumpy about the death of Fara. Seemed to me like they were working up to a subplot about her father and the abandoning of the veil, the identification with the Western Carrie–I wanted to see where they were going. The thought went through my head that the actress got a lot of notice from this show and might have gotten better offers in feature films, so they had to write her out. Need to do a little research on that theory.
    Tomorrow I want to explore the definition of “terrorist” in relation to Haqqani–I’m wondering if on a tactical level he’s not really operating like Abu Nazir, who did seem like the classical “terrorist” insofar as he was coming after our “homeland.” Haqqani’s motivations in hitting the embassy seem a little murkier to me, but in trying to gain the “list of assets” he had a pretty tactical motivation.

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  5. This makes me wonder about the psychology of having a foreign country heavily involved in your affairs. I don’t think it excuses Tasneem for her betrayal but the logic is there on wanting the Americans out of their hair (if it wasn’t for harboring the terrorist. This is where one of the inherent ethical questions of fighting terrorism comes in I think: What lengths are we allowed to go to to circumvent another country’s policies and officials to carry out our task? In a way, we seem to be getting a taste of our own medicine with Tasneem who doesn’t just “play ball”.

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  6. I was saddened by Fara’s death. She was never given the fair credit that she deserved and from the beginning people were strongly against her. Yet she fought on and kept going and worked with them even when they doubted her. I feel that she was an unfortunate martyr for the cause, not needing to be killed but was a symbol overall. This will be impactful but I’m sad to say I don’t think they will give her memory its due in the future.

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  7. Fara’s death was one of the (if not the) most upsetting moments in all of the chaos that happened at the embassy. This is an interesting analysis and certainly points out some potential hypocrisy (Fara never killed any Muslims, but Haqqani did right after criticizing her for it) and raises some interesting point about his motivations, values, etc. On the other hand, I agree with Christine in that Homeland has done itself a disservice in killing her. Not only was she a very likable character, she was the most clear example of a positive Muslim character.

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