Social media witnesses lively debate
By Sucheta Dasgupta and Karan Kaushik
A satirical take on ISIS—more specifically, British women who leave home to join the Islamic State, often referred to as Jihadi Jane(s) after Tabish Khair’s novel on the topic of the same name, has stirred up quite a controversy on social media.
Titled Real Housewives of ISIS in the style of the American reality TV series Real Housewives which travels around the world portraying the lives of women in the occupation, the two-minute long skit describes life as an ISIS bride and lampoons these women. Heydon Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein are the writers of this skit.
“It’s important not to pull your punches in satire. You have to be fearless or it undermines your credibility,” the duo was quoted.
The sketch is part of the BBC Two show Revolting and contains direct references to the Birmingham IS recruit. To wit: In one scene a woman talking in a Birmingham accent says: “I’m so glad I moved over here. It’s everything those guys on the chatrooms told me it would be.” As she scrubs a bomb-hit house, she adds: “Didn’t have to do this in Birmingham. Bull***t!’’
There’s more such comedic juxtaposition of mindless violence and typically shallow-minded obsession with small vanities. A woman is shown undecided on what to wear to a beheading in one scene while in another two women are seen getting angry at each other over wearing the same suicide vest. In the last scene, a woman expresses gratitude to her jihadi husband for tethering her to the kitchen stove with a longer chain, one big enough to allow her to step out of the room and take a sneak peek at what’s supposedly the wider world.
But if you think that this scathing indictment of support for terror has been welcomed without reservations, you are mistaken.
Some people have opined that the predominant response to this phenomenon of British teenagers getting lured into IS jihad should be one of empathy. For, so many of them quickly regret what they have asked for once they reach Syria and find themselves in their unenviable predicament, they offer as argument.
Indeed, that is true and their efforts to run away at this point have mostly proved futile. In August 2016, for instance, 17-year-old Kadiza Sultana, the London jihadi bride schoolgirl who ran away to join ISIS with two friends was reported killed in an airstrike in Syria even as she was planning to escape.
This group sees the skit as making light of the situation of these girls and believe that making humour out of such a serious issue is in bad taste.
Twitter user Harry Shotton comments: “Constructing an image of Muslim women as oppressed and fond of terrorism at a time of widespread gendered Islamophobia is deeply sinister.”
“The real housewives of ISIS “comedy” that the BBC is going to air just isn’t right. You can’t make a joke out of it…Cause it’s not funny,” writes Kay Leigh, another Twitter user.
Their opinion runs counter to that of their opposite camp. This section holds that laughter and lampoon is an important weapon against ISIS and Islamic fundamentalism. Being young and female is no excuse for not being held responsible for one’s views and though this trend (of IS recruiting women as well as men followers online) is deeply disturbing and the victims are deserving of compassion in most cases, humour and even anger can be a legitimate expression of that concern, it says.
British Muslim comedian Ali Shahalom subscribes to this line of thinking. In his Facebook post, he has welcomed the skit, describing it as “very funny” and specifying that he was not offended by the material.
“@BBC2 ‘The Real Housewives of Isis’: Very funny! thank you for finding humour in such dark times and for being daring. U need to push limits,” responded a Twitter user, Agathe Jagiella.
But the most telling response belongs to a YouTube user. In the comments section to the BBC Two skit, he remarks: “I’m Muslim and Turkish, but I like it. Humour is the best way to fight the IS.”