The BBC has come under fire for one of its programmes, Revolting, airing a sketch called ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’. The programme, which depicts four women who have left the UK to join ISIS, was first published online on BBC3 on 5 January. In the show, the four women, in hijabs, interact and joke about the gifting of suicide vests by their husbands. The two-minute clip has been controversial, with many viewing it as satire while others view it as mocking the plight of women under ISIS.
The sketch portrays Muslim women as having manipulated views of Islam, in which violence, not peace, is the answer. And it creates further division as the women seem to be British citizens and used to live in Britain, implying that Muslim women must all have intolerant views and are not willing to integrate into society. The name of the sketch, ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ further trivialises the issue, comparing life in Syria and Iraq to popular reality shows. Some say that the sketch criticises the women who have voluntarily chosen to leave the UK and join ISIS. However, what is not recognised is the plight of women and those who are groomed online to join ISIS and that we must be sympathetic in understanding why these women have decided to join in the first place and try to understand what has been offered to them to convince them to join.
Furthermore, there is the overlooked aspect that many women have been forced against their will to join ISIS, many are emotionally and physically abused, and traded as sex slaves. One of the creators of the programme, Jolyon Rubinstein, stated that the target of the satire was ISIS and that it aims to make viewers aware of the servitude of Muslim women to ISIS: “The target is online grooming, it’s about people who are vulnerable to these kind of approaches.” However, it seems that the aim of the sketch has been lost as it just comes across as offensive to those who have lost family members as a consequence of the strength of online extremist communities.
The fact that the sketch is part of a BBC programme is even more shocking considering that the BBC is funded by the taxpayer and the government, and that it should, in theory, remain balanced. This sketch has created further division and bigotry within British society as some may find it difficult to differentiate between Islamic extremists and moderate Muslims.
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. The project helps mothers to prevent and prevent online radicalisation of their children. Many families have been destroyed by ISIS, the women and men who have joined are victims of a very sophisticated online network that uses lies.. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against homegrown radicalisation, which is being set back with sketches such as these which further isolates and marginalises Muslim women within British society.
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://webguardians.org/.