Their departure to a war zone became one of the strongest symbols of the Islamic State's potential allure to Muslims in Europe, alarming a country that considered itself at war with the organization the three girls had joined. But now a BBC comedy sketch is lampooning the lives of young women who joined the militant group — and sparking a debate in Britain about whether you can really joke about terrorist groups.
“The Real Housewives of ISIS,” which aired this week on the BBC comedy show “Revolting,” follows a group of fictional Western women who are living wildly restricted married lives in the Islamic State. “Ali bought me a new chain, which is eight feet long,” one female actor says as she stands in a kitchen. “So I can get outside, which is great.”
Another woman featured in the controversial clip remarks, “It's only three days to the beheading, and I've got no idea what to wear.”
The punchlines have left some people wondering if it's appropriate to make fun of a phenomenon that has torn communities and families apart, especially while social workers are still trying to prevent girls and young women from being lured to Syria.
“Bad taste, not funny at all,” one woman commented on BBC Two's Facebook page. “With everything going on in the world, I'm sure those who have been effected by Isis, or been victim's of them, or the relatives of those killed in terrorists attacks, won't be laughing?”
Yet another allegation made against the sketch writers is that they might be fueling Islamophobia by playing on draconian stereotypes of Muslim family life. The “Real Housewives” creators have strongly denied such claims. “It's important not to pull your punches in satire. You have to be fearless or it undermines your credibility,” Heydon Prowse, one of the two creators and writers behind “Revolting” told Britain's i-newspaper.
Others have jumped in to defend the video, saying that accusations of Islamophobia — particularly coming from Muslims living in Europe — is ill-placed. “There is a lot of exaggeration,” said Rasha al-Aqeedi, a researcher who is originally from the Iraqi city of Mosul. Discussing the series on the phone, she recalled a conversation with a friend of hers who had suffered severe burns after an Islamic State mortar shell hit her in Mosul several weeks ago.
“She watched the BBC clip in her hospital bed in Erbil two days ago and she laughed so much,” Aqeedi said. “It was the best thing she had seen in a long time. … If Muslims under ISIS rule are not offended, Muslims elsewhere should not feel offended.”
On Twitter, columnist Sunny Hundal also voiced disagreement with criticism of the sketch. “It's our duty to satirise people who join terror groups,” he wrote.
No matter the outcome of the debate over comedy, the real-world consequences of running away to Syria are still as huge — and deadly — as ever. The family of one of the three underage girls who left London to join the Islamic State in 2015 recently said her daughter might have been killed in an airstrike.