Launching airstrikes is one way to combat ISIS, but here's another: laughing. That's what Iraqi sitcom Dawlat al-Khurafa, or State of Myths, satirizing ISIS attempts to do, By mocking the terror group, the show disrupts the rigorous, completely unfunny image they've worked so hard to control. When you have a militant terrorist organization spreading fear across the globe, particularly in the countries it's seizing control over, the best way to defeat them might be to undermine that fear. Maybe it's the first thread you pull if you want to unravel the whole operation.
Since ISIS has been so savvy in its use of the media to spread its propaganda and control information flow, the makers of Dawlat al-Khurafa wanted to take advantage of media in their own way. According to its Baghdad-based writer, Thaer al-Hasnawi, the show aims to quell the terror that ISIS has instilled in the people of Iraq. He told the BBC:
We are doing this so that children don't go to bed scared of Islamic State.
If ISIS is using fear to manipulate and control a population, shifting the people's view of the group could render them powerless. And judging by the frivolous tone of the show, Dawlat al-Khurafa presents ISIS like you've never seen them.
The Satirical Premise
Dawlat al-Khurafa is a comedy series about a dysfunctional country ruled by ISIS militants. Besides presenting the group in a silly and nonthreatening light, the show also aims to challenge ISIS' radical interpretations of Sunni Islam. Though the show has received some criticism from Iraqi Sunnis, who have viewed the show as an attack on them, Hasnawi has insisted that they are not trying to offend the general community.
In fact, the show is intended to emphasize the fact that ISIS' extremist views are not representative of most Sunnis. The series even features a moderate Sunni who offers guidance to the other characters.
The Viral Theme Song
Dawlat al-Khurafa, which has 30 written episodes in the works, opens with a group of militants sitting and singing in a circle with weapons in hand as their leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, conducts them with leather whips. Together they sing the theme song, which opens with the announcement that Satan has arrived and goes on to detail ISIS' violent actions. Some lyrics include:
The egg hatched and an ISIS member is born, give him milk ... and weapons and prepare the armies.... We banned smoking cigarettes and displaced all Christians. We banned all extra-marital sex, except with jihadist fighters.
At the end of each chorus, they call for the executioner to come join them.
The theme song has gone viral in Iraq, garnering more than 200,000 views on YouTube since the show premiered on Sunday.
How It Could Affect ISIS
Experts have long asserted that the fight against ISIS is not limited to the air and ground. A third battleground exists online — a front that, so far, ISIS has been winning with its widespread dissemination of propaganda across social media outlets.
While the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have been successful in hindering their operational activities, and maybe put a dent in their funding, it does nothing to curb ISIS' far-reaching message. Shifting the public's view of the group could be key in reducing the number of new recruits, who would otherwise be enticed by their powerful image.
Watch a clip of the show below.