Did somebody say, satire? Yup, but it seems like no one understands what satire actually is anymore. This past week, the mega-popular news agency, BBC, thought it was a brilliant idea to broadcast a new mini T.V. series titled “The Real Housewives of ISIS.” This isn’t a dream. They actually released their first episode.
The essence of this show is a parody of the well-known franchise “The Real Housewives Of…” This spin-off follows a group of young Muslim women who have willingly run away from their homes to become the wives of ISIS members. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because that situation is actually happening in our world today. Except, it’s not funny and there are real people that are in real danger.
The first episode introduces the women, wearing black abayas and hijab, all young and all given ridiculous lines and personalities. One woman casually mentions a beheading and her ISIS husband’s multiple wives. Two other women show-off their “new vests,” covered in explosives that were a gift from their ISIS husbands, while another woman excitedly showcases the new “jewelry” her husband gave her (a giant chain that ties her to the oven in the kitchen). Something here reeks of try-hard behavior being cloaked under the label of satire.
“…there are real people that are in real danger.”
BBC and those who actively support this skit continue to stand by its defense in the name of “satire.” I get it, I get it – “it’s satire! It’s political! It’s funny! It’s true.” I’ve actually seen one statement in defense of this series pop up more than once when I was looking into this whole ordeal. There are a lot of people backing the argument that “ISIS wants us to fear them, and this skit is doing the opposite of that. It’s showing that we aren’t afraid of them.” While the fact that ISIS wants the world to fear them may be true, this show actually doesn’t prove or take real action on anything against them. If anything, it’s doing more harm than any supposed intended good. I’m the first person who appreciates a good intellectual joke, or satirical piece. This series however, does not do justice to what satire really stands for and it’s just embarrassingly distasteful.
When you vividly display young Muslim women, following the Islamic dress code, on a parody television series that’s plot is based around ISIS, you’re actively instilling and reinforcing a certain image and connection in the average non-Muslim’s mind. That image is surged with extreme racialization, ignorance and intolerance towards Islam. That image only enhances the common, false ideology that makes Muslims and terrorism synonymous. While many come to the defense of BBC, claiming that this series is a “light-hearted take on a controversial topic,” there are real Muslim women out there right now who suffer from not only being influenced by the satanic ways of ISIS, but also from the ignorant minds of all of the people who target and racially violate them for following Islam, for wearing the hijab, niqab, or burqa. Muslim women who wear the hijab have specifically been prime targets for hate-crimes, discrimination, and violent discourse since 2001. They are at the forefront of Islamophobic attacks and rhetoric because they are outwardly seen as Muslim. The fact that “The Real Housewives of ISIS” zooms into, focuses, and inherently makes fun of these women who not only follow the Islamic dress code, but also have been entrapped by ISIS’ demonic ways, further perpetuates the notion that those who dress like that, must have ties with “terrorist” groups. It further pushes actual young Muslim women, particularly residing in the West, into even more danger due to the overarching and obvious negative portrayal of the “characters” in this skit. Many practicing Muslim women dress in black abayas and hijab. The real problem is that the average non-Muslim cannot decipher the difference between the characters portrayed in this troubling series, and actual Muslim women who are literally just trying to live their lives in peace. Being the media giant that BBC is, their content is widely viewed and even regarded as somewhat credible. By releasing a piece such as this, they are inevitably giving the green light to continue mocking, targeting, and “satirizing” Muslim women.
It may all be under the guise of satire, but is it really satire if you are making a joke out of the victims rather than the oppressor? I understand “making light of the situation at hand,” but what’s the point of it all if the result hinders the uneducated mind to continue to internalize harmful stereotypes about Muslim women? What’s the point if all you’re really doing is keeping the oppressed subjugated, and the real villains in power?
“Is it really satire if you are making a joke out of the victims rather than the oppressor?”
The women who are victims of being influenced by ISIS should not be the punch line to your joke. These women clearly are in danger, but hey, let’s make a “funny” series about how “stupid” they are! There is a good amount of people who found this whole series to be funny, but I simply believe that they just don’t know any better. Anyone who actually takes time to reflect on the irony of this “satirical” piece will quickly see the grave flaws that lie within it. I don’t know what’s more sad, the fact that BBC continues to push this certain negative image and agenda against Muslims, or the fact that people genuinely found this skit to be funny and a justice to satire.