Is '24' Hurting Muslims?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 19, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight, the Emmy award winning program "24" has gotten off to a solid start in the ratings this year. But some people don't like it at all. Appearing on NBC News, naturally, far left propagandist Robert Greenwald said this.


ROBERT GREENWALD, PROPAGANDIST: When you have the vice president and the former Secretary of Defense saying this is their favorite show, it does gives you pause to wonder about what really is going on here. Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but of course the fact that the show is on FOX raises all of our eyebrows.


O'REILLY: On a more serious note, the Council on American Islamic Relations believes that because "24" is featuring Muslim villains this year, that may lead to real anti-Muslim sentiment.

Joining us now from Washington, is Arsalan Iftikhar, the legal director for CAIR.

Isn't this political correctness gone crazy? I mean, let's face it, come on, you have a program that's a fictional program. Everybody knows it. You have in this world Muslim villains. They are on the other side of the war on terror from us. There are Muslims who want to kill Americans, you know that. So you combine fiction with reality in this program. And now you guys are complaining about it? And the far left nuts are complaining about it? What's going on?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR, CAIR LEGAL DIRECTOR: Well, Bill, unlike your recent exchange with Stephen Colbert, which everyone knew to be tongue in cheek, in this new season of "24" when 7 million American Muslims are placed in detention centers. I think that's obviously very problematic when you take an entire minority demographic group and essentially place them in internment camps like we did with Japanese Americans after World War II. So...

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait, wait. You're talking symbolically now. You're -- metaphorically you're talking. -- Nobody's placing them anywhere.

IFTIKHAR: Well, no, Bill.

O'REILLY: You mean in the body of the program? Is that what you're talking about?

IFTIKHAR: Yes, absolutely. And...

O'REILLY: But it's a program, it's fiction, it's not real.

IFTIKHAR: Right. But Bill, you have so understand that, you know, millions and millions of Americans watch this show. And when we get desensitized to the point where it's all right for us to place minority groups in detention centers to torture freely, to essentially use the constitution and.

O'REILLY: But they're you're telling me I can't watch "The Godfather". I can't watch Westerns, I can't watch anything because in these fictional displays, they always take the most horrific occurrences, put them on the screen. And that's what drama is all about.

IFTIKHAR: Right, but Bill, if we were talking about placing African- Americans in detention centers or other minority groups, I don't think that we would be having this discussion. I think the uproar would be quite unanimous from all sides of the aisle.

O'REILLY: I don't know. I mean,"Roots" was pretty brutal. There were a lot of things going on, there that were horrific. But here's the problem with this. In the real world, there are Muslim villains. They are our enemies, these jihadists now. So you're basically transferring that onto the screen into a compelling drama and a realistic drama, because this guy is supposed to be protecting us from those Muslim villains. So I don't know how you cannot do that in this day and age.

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, on one hand, people talk about its realism. And then on the other hand, they use, you know, the fact that it's fiction to defend themselves.

Newsweek, you know, has recently called "24" a neocon sex fantasy, essentially where anything and everything that the Bush administration and those who support it want to join the War on Terror essentially is being allowed in "24." And it should gives us all pause when it becomes OK to place millions of Muslims in detention centers or millions of any minorities.

I mean, the fact that we've become so desensitized in this post 9/11 world is very, you know, real phenomenon that we deal with.

Yes, you know, there are people. And as American-Muslims, we are as committed to the perfection of our national security as everyone else. But when shows paint an entire demographic group as being complicit in terrorism, when they have, you know, Muslim families out of the next sleeper cell. You know, obviously, to Americans who don't know anything about Muslims or Islam, it's going to give them a lot of pause when they deal with their Muslim friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

O'REILLY: All right, what would you do, though, if you're in Hollywood and you're making a thriller, a television series about the CIA trying to fight the War on Terror to protect us, I mean, you have to have that element in there? What, are you going to do make the Portuguese our enemies? See, what I'm trying to. I understand the sensitivity. No single group wants to be seen as villainous. I don't believe that's going to bleed over into real life. You know, Americans have — if they were going to do anything to Muslims, they would have done it right after 9/11.

IFTIKHAR: Well, they did do it... .

O'REILLY: And I think we have a very good relationship Muslim-Americans with other Americans. There's no bias incidents that we know of, and we watch it closely. I don't think Americans hate American Muslims. I don't think they do.

IFTIKHAR: There was a Gallup poll that came out last year that said 44 percent of Americans do not want to have Muslims as their neighbors. There is great and growing Islama-phobia in this country. That is something that, you know, the 7 million American Muslims.

O'REILLY: But it hasn't played out in anything criminal.

IFTIKHAR: We've had over 2,000 -- we've had 2,000 hate crimes since 9/11 against American Muslims and those perceived to be American-Muslims. I mean, people who are like you said Portuguese, people who have olive skin. You know, it's painting terrorism as a monolith that it's only brown people that can do bad things. And when certain people do things, then you should associate all of those people with one act.

O'REILLY: No, you've had other -- look, if you watch "24," I mean, they've had other villains of all kinds. And they sent us a list. They've had white villains, and Baltic Europeans, and Russians, and you know, on and on and on.

IFTIKHAR: Well, and Bill, two years ago, we actually worked with FOX. And it resulted in a public service announcement made by Kiefer Sutherland. So you know, FOX is taking it seriously. And we want to continue the discussion as well.

O'REILLY: All right. You have a legitimate point, Mr. Iftikhar. And we appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

IFTIKHAR: My pleasure, Bill. Thank you.

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