In the Middle East, as in France, satire is a weapon against extremists

Nahrain Al-Mousawi writes: In the wake of the deadly attacks on the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, some are portraying the current showdown as one between Western free speech versus an angry and intolerant Islamic world. In fact, it is the Islamic countries of the Middle East that have led the way in attacking the extremists of groups such as Islamic State using the instruments of satire. The use of mockery and caricature as a way of mocking Islamic extremism is, in fact, in some ways far more pronounced in the Middle Eastern media than it is in Europe.

Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) has slaughtered hundreds of Iraqi civilians and soldiers, raped and enslaved hundreds of women, held public crucifixions and stonings in Syria, and staged the executions of U.S. journalists and British aid workers. The group is revolting, abhorrent, and terrifying. But the region on which Islamic State has unleashed its sadistic campaign has responded producing a surprising volume of satire.

On Iraqi state TV, a satirical soap opera dedicated to mocking Islamic State, State of Myth, depicts the gruesome yet absurd “contributions” ISIS fighters and ideology unleash on a fictional town in Iraq, such as a green-energy car-bombing factory– cost-effective, reasonably priced, environment-friendly, and export-ready! All this information is provided by an IS engineer in a TV interview, where the female news announcer has resorted to wearing a sheet while asking questions.

While some claim humor is a way of taking back power – the power to name, to shame – on an uneven playing field, the show appears to be making fun of not only IS’s crude, fumbling, and sadistic methods to gain power, but also the strategic powerlessness of Iraqis trying to play along with, manipulate, and knowingly skirt the cruelty of that blundering power. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email