Why We Need ‘The Real Housewives Of ISIS’

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I love satire and comedy. In the battle of ideas, its firepower cannot be overstated. In these bleak times of daily Islamic encroachments on humanity, I often looked to the masters of this game to provide some levity, and most importantly – to fire some shots back. Verbally of course.

It’s with great regret then, that the satirical titans of our day (and heroes of mine) consistently go missing where this topic is concerned.

From Jon Stewart, to Charlie Brooker – they lost their bottle. Turning their sights singularly on the right-wing response to Islamic terrorism. “Did you see what FOX news said? Aren’t they idiots? Glad we all agree”. Applause.

If there’s no satire or humour to be found at the expense of cartoonophobic grown men martyring themselves for fast-track access to virgins and paradise, just where the hell can it be found? It practically writes itself.

You can imagine my surprise and sense of joy then, when I came across this trailer for the BBC’s ‘The Real Housewives Of ISIS’ today:

It’s hilarious and precisely what is needed. That reassuring thought soon began to fade along with my grin as it dawned on me what was about to happen: the backlash, the outrage, the offence, the obligatory screams of ‘Islamophobia’.

A quick Google search revealed I was already late to the game:

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It’s of great curiosity to me that people can claim ISIS have nothing to do with Islam, whilst trying to argue that the mocking of voluntary, western inhabitants of the caliphate is ‘Islamophobic’.

I must also ask what it is these people would prefer? That the first introduction to the idea of Jihadi matrimony comes to young Muslims by way of comedy such as ‘The Real Housewives Of ISIS’, or via Mohammed on his laptop from Syria? Would they rather life in the caliphate be turned into an embarrassing joke by these talented young women, or sold by a charismatic solider of Allah instead?

As soon as the mainstream is able to own the narrative on these things, and mock them for the absurdities that they are, the sooner their mystique and power will be diluted.

Just look at these young, talented women in hijabs – relentlessly belittling something that only attracts young girls because they are convinced it is the greatest honour –  romantic almost. A duty. The male theocrats will not like this sketch-based counter-narrative. Not one bit. This, I would suggest is the perfect measure by which to decide what’s worth supporting in life. It’s just such a shame that the humourless and perpetually offended do not see this for what it is – progress.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

20 comments

  • I saw this today too. Very funny and I’m most surprised by the BBC Commissioning Editors actually allowing this to Broadcast. Are the BBC going through some kind of awakening do you think? You’re right in that it is just what is needed right now, although the Cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo probably felt the same way (much to their own personal cost). I have sat on a similar spoof programme/sketch idea for about 2 years & I have offered to give these talented writers my idea to ponder. I shan’t hold my breath but will let you know if they take it up.

  • Would have been better if you had touched on specific criticisms of these skits rather than just the headlines. I can see the argument that there should be nothing for decent Muslims to be offended by, since this is mocking ISIS, which should be considered inherently un-Islamic.
    In itself, the skit is hardly groundbreaking satire. The “Real Housewives of X”, reality show parody idea is nothing new, but I suppose the satire of this worthless form of entertainment is valid, if a little late to the party.
    As a satire of ISIS, it’s less effective. Good satire should take an institution, or person, down a peg or two, by making fun of them and exposing something ridiculous about them. Are we meant to take ISIS less seriously here? Is it really a cunning joke to portray their main activities as being blowing things up and enslaving women? Nothing particularly illuminating about that, good for a broad laugh maybe, that’s about it. Or, is the satire aimed at the women themselves, who foolishly sign on for a cruel bait and switch? You seem to think this should be a good education to find out what what marrying into ISIS is really like, but to me it’s a bit muddled. Who would really be persuaded by anything as blunt as this? Better that people should watch a documentary like “Undercover in ISIS” than this kind of exploitative pap.

    • Perhaps you are over-thinking this? The very fact that it is a satire related to Islam, and Islamic attitudes to women, in a world where far too many are far too scared to ever criticise any aspect of Islam, is reason enough to celebrate it. It was also funny!

      • Stephen Knight

        Agreed. Like I said, progress.

      • If Twitter is anything to go by, I see no shortage of (mostly very ignorant) criticism of Islam. But as I said, while it was a laugh, and they got the reality show tone down pat, I thought this was supposed to be a parody of ISIS, not Islam in general? If that’s how you see it, I can see why many Muslims would take offence, since many think ISIS and the way they treat women is just as abhorrent as we do.

        • Sure, there is no lack of criticism of Islam on the internet, but there is a serious lack of it in mainstream media, which is why this by the BBC is notable.

          And yes, this is a parody of ISIS, but thereby it is *also* a parody of Islam, since ISIS is an extreme version of Islam.

          And will Muslims take offense? Well, if they do then excellent! We need to maintain the principle that criticising ideas in a way that can cause offense is an entirely acceptable and routine thing to do. It is entirely normal to criticise political parties and their policies in ways that could cause offense, if their supporters chose to take offense, Ditto other idea systems such as capitalism, socialism, fascism, communism or whatever. Religion, especially Islam, should be no different. We need a world where mainstream media regularly publish things that cause offense to the hair-trigger offense-takers in the Islamic world.

  • Satire is dead after ISIS, as poetry is dead after Auschwitz: nothing funny about it at all; seen too much horror, read too much suffering. No regrets putting a downer on this, can never forget BBC has constantly deflected the truth of Islam and therefore shares in culpability. It is the failure to take the threat of Islam absolutely seriously and be totally honest about it that kills the idea of comedy: ISIS is Islam, and Islam means surrender and you better fucking believe it! Endless serious shit all over the world because of this lethally invasive attempt to islamise the West by the globalist greed machine, or whatever truly is responsible for some very tough and dangerous years ahead where God knows how many are going to end up dead.

  • I agree that this is progress, and despite my loathing of the BBC, I applaud them for their bravery on this.

    Yes it’s brave to mock a group that slaughter their critics.

    MSM mocking ISIS is a step towards MSM mocking Islam. A giant leap for mankind.

  • It should be noted that the sketch and the programme the sketch comes from is written by Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse with the Real Housewives being portrayed, but not created, by talented comedic actresses. I agree with your article. Satire must bite in order to be any good or to provoke thought.

    • What thought does this really provoke? Exposing the fact that ISIS enslaves women and treats them horribly? Well, duh. Or that the women who are conned into a terrifying life of slavery are shallow idiots? Because that seems to be the main thrust here.

      • Perhaps it doesn’t provoke much thought for you. As Mencken said though, “One horse-laugh is worth ten-thousand syllogisms.” The value in this is for people who are not so well informed, and who accept ideas based on whatever general emotional feeling they sense around them. The more contact malleable minds have with the idea that Islam is a cartoonishly ignorant set of beliefs, the better.

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  • An interesting output to this has been who has moaned and who hasn’t (outside of subjective humour).

    Focusing on the disparaging, here and there (BBC Two Facebook, BBC Asian Facebook, Telegraph Facebook), guests on radio discussions, there have been comments made, such as:

    “They are demonising Islamic values”
    This person didn’t explain what he meant, so I’m not sure which “values” depicted in the sketch, he was miffed at.

    “Why does it have to be Muslims? Couldn’t the wives be non-Muslims with Western names?”
    I can only suspect this person wants all Islamic refs as well as Asian name refs removed through embarrassment.
    Another (it might have been this one) asked why they couldn’t be Jewish.

    “Why does it have to be women, acting like Muslim women? Couldn’t they use men, perhaps gay ones?”
    This was the same poster as above who obviously missed that it was a parody not only of ISIS, but the “Real Housewives of…” franchise. She also implied that they *are* behaving like Muslim women.

    “This is Islamophobic”
    This was quite a popular complaint, generally without explanation.

    “It was sexist because they were only women (missed parody title point again), and they only talked of husbands”.
    Missing the point again.

    “I liked Father Ted, because (cue silly analysis of non-stereotypes on an island), but this was stereotyping”
    That was Lauren Booth on the radio. It’s always curious that when asked, they always like Father Ted and can find reasons (Ansar did the very same during the Jesus & Mo T-shirt/Nawaz thing), while gnashing their teeth about *anything* Muslim/Islam.

    And many more. All I take from the disparaging comments is that the sketch was linked to Muslims. never mind that it was about ISIS. It didn’t seem to matter. Vague recollections of the whole program had sketches parodying rich Tory MPs, UKIP voters, Company Tax avoiders, and quite a lot else. Perhaps these people ought to be reminded that anyone connected with all of the others parodied have not made one peep of criticism or annoyance. But I reckon that wouldn’t matter one jot.

  • Totalitarian theocrats – Islamic, Christian or whatever – HATE being mocked because laughter punctures their infallible self-image. Keep it up!

  • This is fabulous, and as to those claiming it wasn’t “thought provoking” or were offended by “cheap stereotypes” and the like, so what? The point isn’t whether it was good or not (although I happened to quite like it, “cheap stereotypes” and all), the point is that it is long since time to normalize public criticism of both Islam and Isis (including satire, cartoons, and whatever else anyone damn well want to do). That this sort of speech particularly bothers totalitarian theocrats is the delicious frosting on this wonderful cake.

    Free speech, insulting or not, injuring feelings or not, intelligent or not, stereotypical or not, is the fundamental pillar of Western democracy and our many freedoms. Sure, there are limits as to what one can say or print about an individual person (particularly a private individual versus a public figure), and limits when the line is crossed into inciting violence, but otherwise, risking being offended or insulted by something in the press is one of the costs of living in a free society.

    • Bit late to the party on this one…
      My main concern is that the piece seems to be taking the piss out of the young girls, not ISIS or anyone else with any power, which is what good satire should, as far as I’m concerned, be all about.
      It’s funny, but I don’t think we should get too excited about something that isn’t actually that brave.

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