Laughing at ISIS


If you can’t beat them, then make fun of them. Patrons at a theatre in Beirut called Metro al-Madina are singing “IF I were a cow, I would be wearing a bra” to poke a little fun at a scary reality knocking down the door. The song is about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS). Artists from Beirut to Baghdad are beginning to target the group in their own way. An easy subject is how the group claims to adhere to strict teachings of Islam, but also has a savvy technique with social media. A weekly sketch called “Ktir Salbe” on LBC International just featured a scene where jihadists hail a taxi but reject modern inventions like the radio.

In Iraq, a state television channel has just budgeted $600,000 to produce “Dawlat al-Khurafa” (“The Mythical State”), which mocks the IS takeover. Mr. Baghdadi is apparently the offspring of the devil and Israel in the show. It has 750,000 hits on YouTube. In the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq, cartoons are starting to make their way forward. In Kafr Nabl, a Syrian village, satirical signs show how activists portray the jihadists as aliens. Middle Easterners have a long history with comedy to criticize their deplorable leaders. Now, however, the satire seems to be the only counterbalance to IS jihadi propaganda. The point is to show no fear.

The satire is a great start, but maybe it should start tackling issues about the circumstances in the Middle East which incubate such intense conflict.

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