In the shell-shocked aftermath of 9/11, Americans sought information about a culture and religion ensconced in an ongoing political dialog of the Middle East that received only sporadic attention in the media. Suddenly, people were asking, why do they hate us? A few years have passed, the war on terrorism settled into a predictable good guys-bad guys debate that yields few answers to a troubling question. Along comes Sleeper Cell to inform the public, a fictitious fanatical terrorist group infiltrating Los Angeles with plans to claim more lives for the Al Qaeda cause. Through the offices of an FBI undercover agent, Darwyn (Michael Ealy), the government monitors his activity within the rapidly evolving plot, the day of destruction more imminent in each new episode. The king of the villains is Farik (Israeli-born Oded Fehr), charged with the overall success of the mission. The other group members are Christian (Alex Nesic), a Frenchman who has found Allah; a bitter Bosnian teacher, Ilija (Peter Lubatti); and blue-eyed all-American boy turned Muslim, Thomas Allen Emerson (Blake Shields): "The history of Islam is written in two lines: One is the black of the scholars' ink, the other the red blood that the martyrs shed."
This series would be successful as non-stop action drama worthy of the accolades of the "24" aficionados, but the writers of Sleeper Cell add another level to this white-knuckle series, the subtleties of extremism contrasted with the true religion of Islam. Darwyn is a committed Muslim, sorely tested in his role as informant, ever on the lookout for an opportunity to spread the true word of Islam as millions practice it in America, without the taint of fundamentalism. Whenever one of his "brothers" blurts a fanatical slogan, Darwyn is ready to clarify in the true words of the Quran. Farik, on the other hand, is firmly entrenched in his hatred of everything American, harboring no mercy for innocents in his pursuit of revenge. Speaking of his mission to a superior, Farik declares, "A man is not a Muslim until his tongue and his heart are submissive. If I fail again, you may take them both."
In one of the most affecting episodes, a soft-spoken sheik approaches a dedicated terrorist in a Yemen jail, armed only with his knowledge of the Quran. The questioning begins, "Brother, what is the greatest jihad?" When he hears the answer, "War with the infidels", this holy man explains the true nature of jihad, the battle within the self to become Allah's holy warrior. He teaches the extremist to go beyond the hatreds he has embraced, to discover the true meaning of his religion, to live his convictions. That such a terrorist can change is a tribute to the power of this religion. When the holy man travels to America to deliver a fatwa against any Al Qaeda operating in this country, Farik is charged with stopping him by any means; this fatwa would render a death blow to the entire endeavor. With his usual canniness, Farik chooses Christian to do the deed, the one man who had sought a private meeting after hearing the sheik speak at the mosque.
In this riveting series, the terrorists move through the streets of LA with impunity, across the border to Mexico to tap financial resources from drug dealers and child purveyors, drive anthrax across the Canadian border into the States, and purchase explosives from White separatists with heroin. Meanwhile, the LAPD blunders into the middle of the FBI surveillance and Darwyn struggles to maintain his cover, until all converges in an explosive ending. Luan Gaines/ 2005.