Unfortunately we live in an age where seeing demonstrations of Islamophobia written all across social media is not uncommon, even from reputable organisations and institutions. But the BBC’s new comedy skit “The Real Housewives of ISIS” was offensive nonetheless, and showed just how normalised negative stereotypes about Muslims have become.
But many people didn’t see why this caused such a furore. As Muslims, we know that ISIS doesn’t represent Islam, surely poking fun at them in this way will raise awareness of that? With the few British girls who have gone to join ISIS, perhaps this will educate young women on why this is not a good choice?
But the answer is no. This sketch was unfeeling and doesn’t actually put out any useful message across.
Firstly to those who think that as Muslims we should enjoin in the criticism of ISIS. This might be easier to do if these ISIS supporters were not portrayed as to so similar to how Muslims are in the UK, primarily through their dresscode. By portraying ISIS housewives as dressing in hijab and abayah and in black, this makes sisters in the UK, who have zero connection to ISIS, but dress that way for the sake of their faith, vulnerable to ignorance and Islamophobia. Isnt it enough that Muslim women are already demonised for their attire, with society labelling it everything from oppressive to enforced? Do we need to add aspiring wives of ISIS to the list? Even if we don’t dress that way personally, shouldn’t we be concerned for our sisters who do? Islamophobia rose 326% in the UK alone in 2015(1), and rose significantly after event such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. This is a very real problem for many people.
Secondly, as to whether this would discourage young girls to join ISIS? Perhaps it would, although such humour often doesn’t prove popular among Muslims for the above reason. But regardless, is it fair to the young women who have been groomed and recruited by ISIS to poke fun at their current ordeal? These young girls were and are vulnerable, and were caught up in a global conflict beyond their comprehension. The likelihood is that they are suffering for it now. The sad reality is that those girls and women travelling to the Middle East to join ISIS, must have been so desperate and ostracised by society, to be brainwashed by ISIS in the first place. This should only increase our pity for these women, many of them only teenagers, not use their circumstances as an excuse for a laugh. Would this be acceptable for girls who were victims of any other kind of grooming? I think not.
I am tired of connections continually being made to Islam and violence. As though it isn’t bad enough that groups like ISIS conceal the true beauty of Islam through their warped application, to have sketches like this that blur the lines between the two and make fun of those caught up in it is unacceptable. The wars in the Middle East have killed hundreds of thousands people, created a refugee crisis, and scarred scores of men, women and children, physically and mentally. To make a comedy sketch about a situation so grave, so impossible to understand unless you have experienced, is an exceptionally insensitive move from the BBC.
The only good thing about this is that once again the hypocrisy of western society is clearly exposed. Liberals can hardly claim to be the champions of Muslim women, freeing them from the shackles of religion and its supposed misogyny; but then make it open season to attack and ridicule young women who follow Allah’s guidance in their dress-code, despite the climate of islamophobia. Stay strong sisters!