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As A Muslim Should I Be Offended By 'Real Housewives Of Isis'?

06/01/2017 16:54
BBC

Blink and you might miss it after the New Year hangover. This week a trailer of Revolting, BBC Two's new sketch show, did the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Since appearing on Tuesday night, a scene from the show - Real Housewives of ISIS - has amassed over 18million views on Facebook alone and has been written about in detail across the internet. Opinion is divided: outrage on one side, hilarity on the idea.

I've been monitoring my reaction to the video since it was posted on my wall. Initially seeing the title I couldn't help feel offence that something as series as ISIS could be paired with the frivolity of the Real Housewives series. I'm used to two huge cultures clashing, but I didn't expect this, not least from the BBC.

48 hours later and my opinion has changed. After watching it on repeat I've started to understand just how important this piece of work is. The housewives' diversity (they're from all over Britain), their irreverence for the situation and their genius use of social media (I'm still cracking up to 'hashtag matchy matchy') shows a wicked insight into using humour to make a very pointed critique.

Parallels have been drawn with Goodness Gracious Me, an important comedy series that ran throughout the 2000s. Casual Punjabi, insulting white people and asking 'how big is his danda?' are all cultural references that continue to infiltrate my current day conversations. While I was slightly too young to remember any backlash then, the way news spread was a very different beast. We hadn't developed an echo chamber back then, we simply enjoyed, or derided satire for what it was - all from the comfort and privacy of our own homes.

The change in news consumption is what is causing the problem. The opportunity to process works like this publically means we cannot help but be influenced by the likes and comments of others we believe we should share bias with. I'm in no way longing for a slower news cycle, but I am recognising the impact of how and where I receive news on how I respond. Taking the time to properly understand the intention and execution of the Real Housewives of ISIS has changed my view completely.

Heydon Prowse, half of the duo that created the show, argues "you have to be fearless or it undermines your credibility", and from personal experience I couldn't agree more, particularly when facing a Muslim audience. Any criticism on Islam over the years has been met with that sharp inhalation followed by "can we really say that?" and rightly so. But as we enter the Trump and Brexit era, shouldn't we able to fall back on good old satire to make us laugh, but more importantly think?

There's no denying that the treatment of the actual ISIS housewives probably doesn't contain 'ISIS emojis' and the severity of their situations has to be acknowledged. But with the 'White Widow' and risks of homegrown radicalisation, we should allow a space for satire to help raise awareness of the very real risks. It might seem trivial, but the sketch has done a good job. What else has done the job of raising awareness and if anything discouraging vulnerable people from swapping their semi-detached in Birmingham for sweeping the floors in Syria?

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