April 08, 2002
No Muslims on Star Trek?

I know this quotation only from today's Best of the Web:

The Whine Spectator
"The media . . . does not really accept or show Muslims . . . as part of American society. . . . You do not see us in 'Star Trek.' 'Star Trek' is set 2,000 years or so in the future. Are you telling us that when machines will be able to have feelings and half-man half-wolf will be able to have love affairs with human beings, people like me will be extinct? So that is like cultural genocide that Hollywood conducts."--Imran Anwar, "Middle East analyst," Fox News Channel, April 6

I'm not enough of a Trekkie (thank God!) to know for sure, but I believe the various shows are all set roughly 150-400 years in the future, certainly nowhere near 2000. They hardly aim to depict "American society", though there are quite a few Americans in the various crews, particularly among the higher-ranking officers. (At least there are quite a few citizens of the Federation born in what is now the U.S.A., which is not quite the same thing.) And I must have missed the one about the wolf-man having sex with a human: has our commentator somehow confused Star Trek with Teen Wolf?

However, to judge from this quotation, Imran Anwar is unaware that there is hardly any human religion of any kind on the various Star Treks. Not to sound too Christian or anything, but Jesus Christ, has this guy ever watched an episode? Captain Picard does not take communion at Catholic Mass in the Enterprise chapel every Sunday, or any Sunday: there is no such chapel, no chaplain, no vestments, no incense, no communion wine, no consecrated host. I'm sure Captain Kirk would be more than willing to take up poisonous serpents for the good of the Federation, or to protect his crew, but he wouldn't do it for his religion: he doesn't seem to have any. Captain Janeway looks like she might enjoy dressing up in her Sunday best for services in one of the more socially exclusive churches, but I've never seen her do anything like that on screen. (Nominations for her likely denomination may be posted in the Comments.)

The only humanoids depicted as seriously religious on Star Trek are the various alien races: an obvious example is the Bajoran chapel and its worshippers, who play an important role on Deep Space 9. For humans, religion is almost invariably depicted as a long-past phase of their evolution, like money, class conflict, and war -- war with other humans, I mean: there are plenty of wars with humanoid aliens and bug-eyed monsters in all the Star Treks.

It is true that there are no Muslims on Star Trek, but there are no Christians or practicing Jews, either, and no Hindus or Buddhists or anything else, with one interesting exception. On an episode of STNG (anyone who has read this far knows what that stands for), the insufferable Wesley Crusher joins up with some intergalactic American Indians, who seem, like Cmdr. Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager, to have been caught in some kind of metaphorical (for a change) time warp, still practicing their ancestral religion when all other humans have moved on to atheism or agnosticism. Like Commander Ryker's brand of light jazz, ethnic or New Age spiritualism seems to be the one kind of human religion bland and unthreatening enough to survive into the 24th century.

As for people on Star Trek who are descended from Muslims, I give you the brilliant and handsome Dr. Bashir of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, certainly the most positive depiction of an ethnic Arab I have ever seen on television, though I don't watch a lot of different shows. His brilliance and (I think) his looks turn out to be genetically engineered, but we won’t hold that against him. And he can be irritatingly arrogant, though somehow far less gratingly so than Ensign Crusher.

However, as TV Arabs go, Dr. Bashir is infinitely less offensive than the only other recurring Arab character on television that I can think of right now: Iqbal, owner of The Jiggly Room, the strip club on Married With Children. Perhaps Imran Anwar should be thankful for small favors and save his insults for the shows that deserve them.

Now to brace myself for the assault of the real Trekkies . . .

Tangential question: Are there even any non-practicing Jews on any of the Star Treks? Surely yes, but I can't think of one whose ethnicity is at all obvious, or made a point of. Comments, anyone?

Update: (4/14, 00:25)
For those who want even more of this stuff, Asparagirl has a post that takes off from this one and has already attracted 20 comments. It's called "I Was A Teenage Trekkie".

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 08, 2002 10:56 PM

Janeway would be an Episcopalian. No doubt about it.

Posted by: Christopher Johnson on April 9, 2002 12:07 AM

Speaking as someone who *is* goofy enough to watch all the Trek shows, pretty much out of nostalgia for when he was eight years old -- god knows they're rarely actual science fiction, and on the few occasions they try to be, they stink at it -- I'll flick your nose with my finger for being thankful you're not One Of Us, and make a couple of comments.

No, there has never been either an acknowledged Jew on any of the shows, or every anyone remotely pointable to as ethnically descended from Jews, or, say, with a name "considered" Jewish. In the books, yes, but they're not "canon."

Nope, no Muslims, either, though you're entirely correct to point to Dr. Bashir's obvious Arabic ancestry; the actor, of course, Siddig al Fadil, who changed his name to Alexander Siddig, is similarly of Arabic ancestry.

There *was* that one episode of The Original Series where on The Planet Where The Roman Empire Never Fell, the Christian religion was still emerging, and Kirk makes a bathetic little speech at the end about how wonderful it would be to see happen all over again; this always stood out as unique in its reference to human religion on ST, and is a unique reference to Christianity.

You are bizarrely and wildly wrong, might I note, in referring to to the planet colonized by descendents of American Indians as "intergalactic." Where did you get such a weird idea, off by hundreds of millions of light years? The solar system is, of course, in our galaxy, and obviously within a few hundred light-years. This is as weird as, say, describing someone journeying from one of the seven hills of Rome to another, and casually mentioning that one is in China.

You're quite correct about the dating, however, and I'm as baffled at the "half-man, half-wolf" thing as you are.

However, in the Original Series, there *was* a chapel of sorts shown in the episode "Balance of Terror" in which Captain Kirk is about to perform a wedding at the beginning of the episode, and at which we find the widow-almost grieving at the end at the death of her almost-husband.

I don't know if it's worth mentioning that it was also established in a TOS episode that the Roman gods, specifically Apollo and others, were powerful aliens, but now I have.

And, yeah, the Bajoran religion was a core plot and thematic thread of _Deep Space Nine_ and the Bajoran culture. And as you say, there's plenty of alien religion. Captain Janeway did, in fact, deal with her reactions to some of those in some specific Voyager episodes, and in a reasonably nuanced and balanced way. Meanwhile, on _Enterprise_, we've seen a Vulcan monastery, but it also turned out to be concealing a spying station on the Andorians; tsk, tsk. No mention, still, of Earth religion, and it remains to be seen if they'll deal with it; I'm not sure I'd bet one way or the other on that.

Is this a sufficient assault?

Posted by: Gary Farber on April 9, 2002 12:18 AM

I am reminded of a joke:

In the year 2030, a man and his young son are touring New York. When they come to the former site of the World Trade Center, the man looks out over it silently.

The boy asks, "Dad, why are you suddenly so quiet?"

The man replies, "When I was your age, son, this was the site of the World Trade Center."

The boy asks, "What was 'the World Trade Center'?"

The man explains, "It was an office complex dominated by two incredibly tall towers. But it was destroyed almost thirty years ago by Muslim terrorists."

The boy asks, "What were 'Muslims'?"

Mr. Anwar might want to ask himself why cultural genocide might be committed.

Posted by: John "Akatsukami" Braue on April 9, 2002 02:40 AM

I'm not a devoted trekkie but did like Next Generation and Deep Space 9. Don't know explicitly of Muslims or Jews, but a while back there was a protest that an extremely capitalistic race (the Ferengi, I think) were supposed to be a caricature of the Jews.

Posted by: Geoffrey Barto on April 9, 2002 03:30 AM

There are a number of "true" religions depicted in Star Trek, ie species whose religion is demonstrated within the episode or series to be based on objective fact (although often that fact is subject to interpretation - wormhole aliens vs The Prophets, for example), but none of the judao-islamic-christian religions are depicted, possibly because of their reliance on non-rational faith...it would be nice to think that rationality will beat the cancer of religion and they will ALL be gone by the 24th century, but I suspect that the need for the comfortable lie will continue to cripple us and the utopian rationalist future predicted by Star Trek will continue to elude. Ho hum.

Posted by: jeff on April 9, 2002 05:22 AM

i don't know if i'd pin myself with the term "Trekkie" (or, as is preferred now, "Trekker") (huh, now why would i know that?), but it was my understanding that Star Trek was non-religious because Roddenberry wanted it that way. check out http://members.aol.com/heraklit1/startrek.htm for example.

reason and science uber alles. it seems to me that if you could prove you were otherwise rational, the future accepted you no matter what religion you practised.

a nice dream, is it not?

Posted by: chris on April 9, 2002 01:27 PM

Trek has always been loaded with religious influences, but it mostly tries to generate "unique" religions (like those of the Vulcans or Bajorans) which are heavily based on real-world belief-systems.

Posted by: Howard Fienberg on April 9, 2002 02:27 PM

Deep Space 9 is the only Trek show I've seen that really dived into the whole religious aspect of life. The Captain was the Bajoran's "messiah".

But if you want to get into religion in the future, go watch Babylon 5. It's the only SF show I've seen that really dealt with religion seriously and intelligently. JMS (the writer dude) is agnostic, but he managed to present various religious faiths without resorting to the tactic of presenting them as dumb or irrelevant, or any with any other negative connotations. In fact, "Garden of Gethsamane" is probably the best show featuring Christianity that I've yet seen on television. Another good episode "And the Rock Cried Out No Place to Hide" is also very good, if only for the end of the show where Londo's main enemy is chased down and slaughtered to the music of a Gospel tune. There's also a few episodes were we see that most of the religions that are around today are still around in the future.

So....Babylon 5!

Posted by: John Stryker on April 9, 2002 05:47 PM

I'd like to say that I intentionally misused "intergalactic" to flush out true Trekkies like Gary Farber, but in fact this is not the first time I have used the word very loosely to mean "very far away from home". Not to sound too much like Robert Fisk, but thanks for the correction, GF.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on April 10, 2002 12:09 AM

I probably should note that I over-reacted somewhat on misuse of "intergalactic" because this is, in fact, such a common misusage amongst many, uh, unimpressive writers, and so I have a silly amount of pent-up irritation at it. The good Dr. Weevil, of course, not being an unimpressive writer, I was dismayed to an unusual degree in this rare case of ill-choosing a word.

Say, do you know how many parsecs Han Solo can do the Kessel run in?

Posted by: Gary Farber on April 10, 2002 01:50 PM


Posted by: John Stryker on April 10, 2002 09:09 PM

Of course, there is another joke about this:

One day, the Saudi ambassador and Colin Powell are having lunch. After a long, fruitful discussion, the Ambassador says, "Mr. Secretary, I have a personal question for you. My son watches the American television show called, 'Star Trek.' In it he sees many different kinds of people, but he never sees any Muslims. Why is it, Mr. Secretary, that this television show has no Muslims?"

To which Colin Powell smiles gently and replies, "Because, Mr. Ambassador, the show takes place in the future."

Posted by: Steve White on April 10, 2002 11:14 PM

You know, the Star Wars gear-heads have come up with an explanation for Solo's boast. The FTL drives in that universe don't work so good too close to a gravity well, and Kessel is tucked away behind a dense cluster of stars, singularities, and technobabble. Most ships & pilots have to go the long way around, and this safe route is much longer than 12 parsecs. Hey, at least they tried to come up with an explanation... I still want to know why Trek ships bother having any equipment other than the navigational deflector dish and the lateral sensor array.

Posted by: BJ on April 10, 2002 11:57 PM

I've never done this before but here goes.

I am guessing the half-wolf is Worf, and did I mention my husband and I do Worf and Dax (formerly Troi) for Halloween?

Worf's Earth foster parents, Sergei and (forgot wife's name) Rozhenko, are shown as definitely Russian, with Jewish never mentioned. HOWEVER, Sergei is played by Theodore Bikel, so in my mind they have always been Jewish.

Now, let me wander further afield. In the Babylon 5 universe, Commander Ivanova (also a Russian name) makes repeated references to her father, the rabbi.

Posted by: Janet on April 11, 2002 02:28 PM

Well, actually, Ivanova is Jewish, her father was not a rabbi, but Theodor Bikel, not being typecast, of course, played their family friend--a rabbi--who came to bring Ivanova her father's Samovar after Daddy's death.

Watching him on B5 was hilarious. Yiddish and Hebrew and even the Chanukah line: A great miracle happened here!

And Worf's parents are SO Jewish, they make me look like a shiksa. Would Rozhenko be a Russian form of, say, Rosen? It may never have been stated, but it was absolutely implied.

There is also a hugely-missed subplot here, folks. The Bajorans were originally introduced as ST's version of the Palestinians, fighting for their freedom from the wicked and much bigger and more supplied Cardassian foes. One of the users on my then-BBS couldn't get over the fact that I liked Ensign Ro so much when the allegory was so obvious. I just didn't care for the allegory, and so ignored it.

I know too much about B5. I checked my facts. (http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/) I was right. Sigh.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish on April 11, 2002 10:43 PM

I am not a trekkie/trekker. I didn't like the original, Next Generation, or DS9. I did like Voyager however. It was great and I have yet to see an episode of Enterprise. (Mainly because I moved and do not get that channel anymore)I agree though that DS9 was the only one where religion was truly delved into. My theory about the lack of religion in the series: All you people who give a damn! Who cares. Its a frickin TV show. Fiction. Not real. They didn't put it in because somebody would bound to protest with a legitimate claim or not.Now you are worrying about the lack of religion. They didn't want to offend people. Duh! I just want to sit back, enjoy the show, and escape reality for an hour or so. I dont't want to watch Star Trek and watch Mass or be reminded of the many crisis' in the Middle-East and how all these Muslims(extremist I mean, I mean no offense to any Muslims whatsoever so don't be) complaining how America is "evil", and "downplays all good Muslims" etc. etc. And besides, do you people actually have a life? Your debating the religious(or lack thereof) in Star Trek for crying out loud. Get a job/life/significant other, anything. I only fount this site through rightwingnews.com.

Posted by: Alex Harris on April 12, 2002 02:09 PM

Ding! Ding! Ding!

We have a winner!

You can't post anything about Star Trek without the requisite "Get a life!" message.

And don't worry Alex, *we* know you only fount this site through rightwingnews.com. Don't want people to mistake you for someone who cares or anything like that.

Posted by: John Stryker on April 12, 2002 07:27 PM

I do remember the "ferengi" controversy...funny thing is, when I first saw that show with the "ferengi", I also thought they represented the Jews in the future...their actions and behaviours on the show certainly were very "Jewish" like...

Posted by: fn on April 17, 2002 07:36 AM

My buddy forwarded me this link, and...wow...

For the record, "right wing" boy was a bellicose, semi-literate jerk...even though I, myself, am not a 'Trekkie', cats get into their own stuff and good for 'em so long as nobody's getting hurt. Soem of those postings were a bit over the top, though.

As someone presently working on a novella with a 'sci-fi' premise, I must say I think Star Trek was always cheesy, overacted and ham-handed in its depictions. That being said, I think the newer versions are better acted, better written and certainly more nuanced...and I've caught myself getting hooked ojn "Final Conflict"...isn't that a Roddenberry joint as well?

Have fun people, 'live long and prosper' (isn't that it? Or is that just an urban myth?) \./


Posted by: Dubs on April 17, 2002 11:07 AM

My buddy forwarded me this link, and...wow...

For the record, "right wing" boy was a bellicose, semi-literate jerk...even though I, myself, am not a 'Trekkie', cats get into their own stuff and good for 'em so long as nobody's getting hurt. Soem of those postings were a bit over the top, though.

As someone presently working on a novella with a 'sci-fi' premise, I must say I think Star Trek was always cheesy, overacted and ham-handed in its depictions. That being said, I think the newer versions are better acted, better written and certainly more nuanced...and I've caught myself getting hooked ojn "Final Conflict"...isn't that a Roddenberry joint as well?

Have fun people, 'live long and prosper' (isn't that it? Or is that just an urban myth?) \./


Posted by: Dubs on April 17, 2002 11:07 AM

I had seen this and another interview of Imran Anwar on Fox News.

What I understood from the whole segment was not a complaint about MUSLIMS not being on Star Trek worhsipping or doing religious practices but people "from that part of the world" not being represented.

I think that includes a billion or more Hinduism followers in India, and many other faiths. Much like at one time African Americans also complained about under representation in TV shows (and some still do). Anyone please comment on that aspect. of TV and society also

I also saw some episodes of STNG where a wolf-man character is romancing the Doctor woman (Crusher? Sorry, I do not remember exactly).

I think Anwar also spoke about American TV shows in general and gave examples of dramas and other shows also, not just Star Trek. Thank you.

Posted by: Linda B. Hampton on May 2, 2002 10:30 PM

Meryl, Worf's parents were originally meant to be Jewish, but the Powers That Be decided that it would be too comical, so they changed it.

Also on B5, Bikel played Susna's uncle- and yes, he was a Rabbi. The epsidoe was TKO and it was in the first season.

Yes, I am a geek. And proud of it!

Posted by: James Wolf on July 12, 2002 06:29 PM

On ST metaphors:

Bajorans: I thought the whole Bajoran thing was a metaphor for Eastern Europe and the newly Soviet-free countries there (including some nasty Bajoran infighting a la Balkans).

Ferengi: Originally, I thought they were a metaphor for the Saudis, with undeserved (implied) and retro attitudes toward women including an unrealistic (un)dress code. On DS9 they definitely were more 'Jewish', but (not being Jewish myself) I didn't think it was offensive. Actually they were a hoot and they figured heavily in most of my favorite DS9 episodes.

Posted by: michael farris on July 20, 2002 10:48 AM

Space, the final frontier...no matter how far away we explore, or fantasize about it, it does not compare with the myriad of emotional frontiers of the heart. While space may be conquered over time, the heart, in itself, will always present new challenges and discoveries, as it is housed in so many of us who think and live differently. Star Trek, regardless of the various themes of each show, gives us a future in which, despite these differences, humanity becomes united and goes on a continuing voyage to do so with the rest of the known galaxy. This show gives us an aspiring view of humanity as most of us would like it to be in the world we live in today. Although Mr. Alex Harris posted his comments 6 months ago or so, I would like to say that he should get a job so that he can afford cable television. He must currently be getting broadcast TV if he is not receiving the channel featuring Voyager.

Posted by: Tony Alas on October 29, 2002 06:14 PM

I can't help noticing the hypocracy in calling someone a "semi-literate jerk" and then spelling the word 'some' incorrectly, then managing to post the message twice.

Has anyone spotted the that in 'Search for Spock' Spock dies and rose again. Remind you of anyone? Our Lord perhaps? Sorry Muslims, I admire your discipline but there is too much evidence for the resurrection and is Islam was spread by the sword not conversion. Islam is fundamentally flawed and the identity crisis it now faces is dew to the emptiness of it's claims.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Posted by: Pete on December 16, 2002 12:19 PM

It's truly sad to see some posting jokes about the upcoming "cultural genocide" of Muslims or any group for that matter. I've always seen the Trek series as an attempt to envision a universe where humans and others have learned to get along despite their differences. (Remember the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC?) Wasn't this why Roddenberry casted Russians and African Americans on his original program during the Cold War and Civil Rights movement? Just a thought! Peace be with ya'll

Posted by: Slurry on June 16, 2003 09:25 AM

I found this site during a web search on the term ferengi. I had come across it as the word the people of Bukara used for Europeans as the Russians and British approached in the 1800s from the north and south. I believe that Roddenberry meant them to represent money driven Europeans of all religions.
http://babylon.journalhost.com/Chapter.asp?ChapterID=452 for those with open minds

Posted by: stuart bryan on October 23, 2003 12:46 PM

I watch Star Trek and love the show, but the totally anti-muslim comments on this thread make me sick.

You guys think yourself to a great peace loving people, well frankly your not! You support Israel killing little kids and pregnant women, you are friends to a Russia that kills thousands in Chechnya, you support two wars that killed thousands of INNOCENT people. You lot killed more people then a bunch of loonies killed on 9/11 and then you say that Islam/Muslims are messed up.

Wake up and pull your heads out of your ass


/A Muslim

Posted by: Asad Chuto Agha on January 17, 2004 01:54 PM

Lies from a Muslim:

1. We think of ourselves as a great freedom-loving people. Peace is good, but freedom is better, and sometimes we have to fight for it.

2. We support Israel because the Israelis do not target "little kids and pregnant women" and the Palestinians do. When Israeli women and children die, it's because the Palestinians want to kill them. When Palestinian women and children die, it's because their men hide behind them.

3. We are not friends or allies of Russia. We have diplomatic and trade relations with them, as we have with 95% of the countries of the world, including many other horrible places.

4. We support two wars that freed 50,000,000 Muslims from slavery and stopped the continuing murder of hundreds of thousands of them. Saddam Hussein and the Taleban killed more of their fellow Muslims every year than the U.S. killed in driving them from power.

5. We do not say that all Muslims are messed up, just some of them, including you, Asad Chuto Agha. No one who has posted here wants to kill all Muslims, or even most of them. The joke about the future is a bitter consideration of what could happen if Muslims do not get their heads out of their asses and start behaving like civilized human beings instead of barbarous thugs.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on January 18, 2004 04:41 PM

Lies from a Muslim Hating Bush Worshipper

1. You love freedom, then why is your government supporting over 10 non democratic regimes in the middle east, why did rumsfeld go to visit Turkmenistan where human rights abuses are huge, why does the US support Turkey which imprisons dissidents? Why did the US remove Aritied from Haiti who was a democractically elected leader

2. Oh so Israel does not target little kids and pregnant women just becuase you say so...oooh all behold the wisdom of dr weevilly

3. Russia is an ally, whether you like it or not. They sit on the security council with you and bush and putin are good pals. Don't deny it

4. set free 50,000,000 Muslims? Where did you pull that out of? your ass??? 150 Iraqis died today. altogether over 15,000 iraqis have died, not to mention the 500 of your soldiers, poor idiots sent to their death by an even idiotic president who never served in the army

5. No one has said explicitly that Muslims are messed up, but implicitly it is very apparent. Only an edit like you who couldnt spell evil would think it wasn't so

Posted by: Asad Chutp Agha on March 2, 2004 11:28 AM


"Only an edit like you who couldnt spell evil would think it wasn't so"

Pot calling the kettle black, in my opinion. In case you're still scratching your head, Asad, it's spelt I-D-I-O-T. Look it up, it might come useful.

To answer your cunningly concieved retorts:

1. Nobody said the USA was perfect. It's still way better than anything the vast and mighty Muslim civilization, with 56 countries and around 1500 years of expansion, though. Last I heard, your greatest achievement was Alghebra, around 500 years ago. Come back when one of these states has independantly developed democracy, or fixed its horrible human rights violations.

2. Israel, in fact, does not target women and kids, unless of course they're strapped to bombs and about to explode themselves. It has nothing to do with Dr. Weevil "saying so" although he was indeed correct. See, Israel has nothing to gain by creating atrocities, and it is incredibly well supervised by the world media to do so in any case (much more so than any Arab regime). It's a lesson your people might have learned by now, as all the bombings and massacres got you precisely dick.

3. I'd stop talking out of my ass if I were you. Here's another fun fact for you to look up: the Cold War. In any event, point No. 1 applies to Russia as well as to the USA. The whole civilized world would prefer them to Islamism.

4. I didn't know army service was required in order to lead your country into war. In this case, I suggest immediate resignation by every single Muslim monarch and dictator, as all, or almost all, have no military record either. Or perhaps after getting their asses kicked by Israel 5 consecutive times, it's starting to sink in with the Arabs?

5. I guess you should know, what with being an "edit" and so on.

Posted by: Lonewolf on November 4, 2004 05:04 PM