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. Although, 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. Haqqani 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.