The state-run television station in Iraq, al-Iraqiya, has produced a fairly big budget satirical sketch comedy show making fun of the Islamic State. Having lost a great deal of ground to the Islamic State militarily, Iraq is apparently fighting back with comedy. To mixed results:
The show demonstrates the extraordinary ability of people in this war-scarred nation to challenge violence with humor. But making light of the group notorious for beheadings and massacres brings serious risks. Some of the cast members have not allowed their names to appear on the show’s credits, while the scriptwriter has insisted on remaining anonymous.
The comedy also shows something else: the jaundiced view that many Iraqis have of the countries that are coming to their government’s defense against the militants. The original trailer for the series played into widely held conspiracy theories alleging that the United States, Qatar and Israel were responsible for the rise of the Islamic State. That idea, however, was scrapped after executives decided that amid a U.S-led bombing campaign, ridiculing their allies had become too sensitive.
The show’s view of the United States and her allies is curious. In one early show, the US (a whiskey-swigging cowboy) welcomed guests to the marriage of Israel and the Devil. The progeny of this unholy matrimony was Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, who hatched from an egg. This highlights the fact that Iraq is still reeling from troubled relations with the US and Israel. The show has since focused entirely on making fun of the Islamic State, but one wonders how the US and Israel can patch up its foreign relations with Iraq if such wounds continue to fester under the surface.
All in all, I think this comedic approach might work. Sometimes, the best way to combat terror is through laughter. And we all know how much Islamic extremists hate being mocked. Perhaps this is just the ticket to revitalize and encourage a demoralized Iraq.