“It’s only three days until the beheading” says a burqa-clad woman with a broad northern English accent, “and I’ve got no idea what I’m gonna wear!”
So opens the sketch the Real Housewives of ISIS, from the new BBC series Revolting. It’s hilarious, but has inevitably received a barrage of criticism online, with many judging it to be in “poor taste” and “Islamophobic”.
Which prompts the question – how can people take such offence at mocking a vile, militant group of fanatics?
Schaterend zitten kijken. I love you BBC. The Real Housewives of ISIS: pic.twitter.com/X3SlELykxK
— Rutger de Quay (@rutger_) January 5, 2017
Can you claim that the Real Housewives of ISIS is Islamophobic? Absolutely, but to do that you must concede that ISIS has rather more to do with Islam than those complaining like to admit.
If ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, as is so often trumpeted, then the sketch can hardly be Islamophobic. But even then, that shouldn’t be relevant: what is so special about one religion that means it cannot be mocked for obvious ludicrousness? Why is the Real Housewives of ISIS outrageous, but the glorious Father Ted completely acceptable?
Of course, the argument has been made that mocking the very real plight of the women married to ISIS fighters is a cruelty to them, but again, what is so wrong with that? Is ‘Allo ‘Allo cruel for mocking the lives of French peasants, German soldiers and the resistance, given the awful context of its setting?
The point is that so many of these women had lives in the West that they gave up for a bizarre ideal which, in the cold light of day, is obviously nonsense. These are the women being portrayed, not those taken who were already in Iraq and Syria.
One of the great fears of the West is home-grown radicalization, young men and women being manipulated by jihadi propaganda. The sketch alludes to this, mentioning how the women were lured to the Caliphate through online grooming.
What better way of putting young people off than showing the absurdity of believing a bombed-out hovel in Raqqa might trump a bedsit in Bradford?
We should be celebrating that this sketch was made at all, at a time when comedy finds itself ever more tightly muzzled so as to not stir up the easily offended.
We live in a free society. It’s mind-numbingly simple, but that’s why this sketch would be important even if the gags weren’t as good. We are able to say these things and then go about our lives free from the fear of bloody retribution – unlike those who live under ISIS.
It is brave of the writers to approach such a topic, given how those who mock Islam have often ended up faced with very real violence.
That a sketch like this offends people in our society, in many ways, is great: it’s good that they have their own views. It’s just funny that the views are as laughable as someone wanting to join the Islamic State.