Two Islamic State Fighters Walk Into a Bar…

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How Arabs are mocking the self-proclaimed Caliphate.



The scene has become harrowingly familiar. A man dressed head to toe in black, armed with a knife, is standing behind a row of crouching prisoners. A jihadi anthem is playing in the background. The camera goes to slow motion as the Islamic State fighter approaches the prisoners.

“So, what color is it?” the executioner demands, showing the prisoners the notorious picture of the dress that recently sparked a viral debate around the world.

“White and gold,” says the first man. As the black-clad man walks down the line, the next terrified prisoner parrots the same answer. The third one, however, breaks the script: “Black and blue,” he says, and is taken away to be beheaded — only to find his executioner having a change of heart about the color of the dress.


What looks like a professional video that could have been produced by the Islamic State is in reality a satire created by three young Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The video was a success, quickly receiving over 2 million views.

One of its creators, Mohammad Hamad, was initially heartened by the reception. But it soon reached an audience that didn’t appreciate the joke: Hamad said that threats started to reach him and his friends and family from Islamic State (IS) supporters, some claiming to be in Gaza.

“I knew there were Islamic State supporters here in Gaza but I didn’t think that they would go as far as direct threats,” Hamad said, confessing that he has now started to fear for his family and to look for a way out of the Gaza Strip.

Fear is one of IS’s most important weapons. In Syria and Iraq, its carefully orchestrated brutality has been breaking the morale of its opponents, leading many to feel that their only choice is between jumping on the bandwagon or being crushed by it. The group’s mass murder of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya in February shocked Egypt, while coordinated suicide attacks on two Shiite mosques in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in March, for which an affiliate of IS claimed responsibility, killed over 140 people and quickened that country’s descent into chaos.

But Arabs are hitting back, with laughter. With the shadow of the Islamic State looming over country after country, a seemingly endless list of Arab satirists from all over the region are now aiming their sharp tongues and pens against the group.

Fighting death through dance

The Egyptians have long been known as the Arab world’s masters of comedy. True to form, they’ve now managed to turn even the Islamic State’s most powerful anthemagainst the group.

“Saleel al-Sawarim”(The clanging of the swords”) is a nasheed, a purely vocal chant, since music with instruments is forbidden according to the Islamic State’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. It is just as slick and professional as IS’s other media products, and has been a key factor in strengthening the group’s appeal. Its haunting message of martyrdom and apocalyptic struggle has helped the group recruit young people from all over the world at an unprecedented pace.

However, in the hands of 18-year-old Egyptian computer geek and amateur musician Karem Farok, the jihadi nasheed has now been remixed into a dance pop hit.

“‘Saleel al-Sawarim’was getting very popular and it stuck in my head too, since it is a good tune,” Farok admitted. “So I wanted to transform it into a tool for mocking the Islamic State. And I managed to turn it around completely, from death and violence to dance.”

This way, listening to the remix becomes an act of defiance in what Farok sees as a psychological war.

The remix has spurred a trend in which young Arabs create their own Islamic State parodies by using Farok’s and similar “Saleel al-Sawarim” remixes. The nasheed has been dubbed over dance scenes from Egyptian films and homemade videos of goofy dancing — and even the South Korean pop song “Gangnam Style.” Videos combining the anthem with belly dancing have gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views. Another homemade video shows three veiled women, two of them dressed in black and preparing to behead the third — at the first cry of “Allahu akbar,” the shake-your-hips drums kick in and the women break into wild dance.


The need to laugh at the Islamic State is universal, and parodies are made all around the world. Given the Internet’s love of cats, it should also come as no surprise that some anonymous figure compiled videos of cats failing miserably to jump from one place to another, all set to “Saleel al-Sawarim.”


Satire made by Muslims is particularly powerful, since it rips apart the Islamic State’s claim to speak for the entire religion. A prime example of that is Khaled Soubeih, the lead songwriter in the Lebanese satire band Al-Rahel Al-Kabir (“The Great Departed”). When not playing music, Soubeih is pursuing a master’s degree in Islamic studies at Lebanon’s branch of Al-Azhar University, the most prominent Islamic institution of learning in the world.

When the Islamic State and al Qaeda fighters temporarily took control of a Lebanese border town last summer, creating what Khaled called a “national trauma,” the Great Departed had its breakthrough in Beirut thanks to Soubeih’s catchy song of mocking praise for IS’s self-proclaimed “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In the song, Soubeih uses Islamic references and traditional music to lampoon the jihadi group: “Since Islam is mercy, we will butcher [people] and distribute the meat,” the band chants, alluding to the Islamic tradition of slaughtering sheep and distributing meat to the poor on religious holidays.


Soubeih sees Islamic extremism as a product of political oppression that must be fought with freedom and reform. “In our satire we are not targeting Muslims as a whole but extremism, and this has enabled us to reach many people,” he said. “I even had messages from Syrian rebel fighters, including Islamists, who liked the song.”

It is sometimes said that satire is the weapon of the powerless. For artists like Soubeih, that message rings uncomfortably true: He believes that avenues for genuine political participation in the Arab world are limited, and was finally pushed into satire when he realized that earnest arguments about how to heal his region had failed him.

“With all the madness and the surreal state of things, I can no longer approach political issues in a serious way,” he said. “I mean, how can we possibly discuss seriously when someone like Muammar al-Qaddafi can rule a country?”

REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Two Islamic State Fighters Walk Into a Bar… | Foreign Policy
 
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I'm pretty sure that this British comic strip will create repercussions too. I'm linking, rather than using the image here as it does contain profanities.


Curtains for Al Qaida - VIZ
 
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Well when governments allow tyrants to do as they please then this is the result. These terrorists have now become more embolden to do as they please without any fear of facing the justice system. When will the UN and the West finally decide to take serious military action against these criminals?
 
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Well when governments allow tyrants to do as they please then this is the result. These terrorists have now become more embolden to do as they please without any fear of facing the justice system. When will the UN and the West finally decide to take serious military action against these criminals?
When ISIS threatens the west's safety. Imagine what would happen if ISIS attacked America.
 
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When ISIS threatens the west's safety. Imagine what would happen if ISIS attacked America.
Yeah I think the low-life cowards know better. They're happy to be murdering and torturing the weak and helpless. I'd like to see them on our turf!
 
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Yeah I think the low-life cowards know better. They're happy to be murdering and torturing the weak and helpless. I'd like to see them on our turf!
I don't think it's about fear. I mean, ISIS fighters are loonies, they couldn't care less about dying. I think it's very hard for ISIS fighters to infiltrate America, given its stern border control. But don't you guys have a pretty big Muslim population already living in America? That's what I'd worry about.
 
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I don't think it's about fear. I mean, ISIS fighters are loonies, they couldn't care less about dying. I think it's very hard for ISIS fighters to infiltrate America, given its stern border control. But don't you guys have a pretty big Muslim population already living in America? That's what I'd worry about.
In many international symposiums Muslims have clearly stated their position in regard to ISIS. Countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya have suffered many ISIS attacks and still subjected to more attacks that only targeting their Muslim population. Please pay respect to those muslims who died as a result of ISIS atrocities. Your indirect generalization sir is uncalled for.


Note: Hateful remarks are highly discouraged in this forum so please stick to the rules.
 
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I don't think it's about fear. I mean, ISIS fighters are loonies, they couldn't care less about dying. I think it's very hard for ISIS fighters to infiltrate America, given its stern border control. But don't you guys have a pretty big Muslim population already living in America? That's what I'd worry about.
Why arent you worried,dont you have a bigger Muslim community in percentage to the US?
Muslims in Sweden,5% of the population
Muslims in the US,2.11% of the population.
 
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People are starting to get off-topic because of their preconceived notions. You're arguing for all the wrong reasons and have ultimately failed to see the bigger picture. I repeat: this isn't about religion. It doesn't matter whether you're Muslim, Christian, atheist or agnostic. If you want everything to go your way and harm people in the process, then you're a bane of humanity and must be stopped - regardless of religion, sex, age and status. ISIS members and supporters are exactly like that: selfish airheads who forcefully - nay, brutally - impose their ideals on the world. They shouldn't be offended by the video. It speaks the truth.
 
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Why arent you worried,dont you have a bigger Muslim community in percentage to the US?
Muslims in Sweden,5% of the population
Muslims in the US,2.11% of the population.
5% of the population of the UK is Muslim and I'm not worried at all. Why would I be? I am not of the opinion that all Muslims are terrorists, far from it.
 
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5% of the population of the UK is Muslim and I'm not worried at all. Why would I be? I am not of the opinion that all Muslims are terrorists, far from it.
Maybe US Muslims are different from another planet?
 
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It's weird how people here are so hung up on religion. That's not the be-all and end-all of your existence. Why don't you just do good and be done with it? Measuring the Muslim population as if that matters a great deal. As if you can ever quantify God and faith. If religion is all that matters in this world, why are there different kinds of Muslims (i.e. Sunnis, Shiites, etc.) and Christians (i.e. Born Again, Protestants, Roman Catholics)? Countries and cultures - humans in general - are making their own conflicts and problems. Rather than looking for a common ground, we focus on the differences. So here we are right now: in a chaotic world of our own doing.
 
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Maybe US Muslims are different from another planet?
I'm not even sure if that's supposed to be a joke or not.

Anyway, I think it is great that some people have the wit and will to still make light of the situation that their in, while knowing that it could mean they are putting themselves in harms way. However the sad truth behind it is that extremist thugs like ISIS that do vile things in the name of religion are unfortunately still carrying our their senseless acts, and one can only hope they are stopped sooner rather than later.
 
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I'm not even sure if that's supposed to be a joke or not.

Anyway, I think it is great that some people have the wit and will to still make light of the situation that their in, while knowing that it could mean they are putting themselves in harms way. However the sad truth behind it is that extremist thugs like ISIS that do vile things in the name of religion are unfortunately still carrying our their senseless acts, and one can only hope they are stopped sooner rather than later.
So post 6 cant be a ridiculous joke but my post is?
Why didnt you comment on post 6?
You could start at post 6 and see if the next posts(mine) are a joke or not.
 
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Why arent you worried,dont you have a bigger Muslim community in percentage to the US?
Muslims in Sweden,5% of the population
Muslims in the US,2.11% of the population.
Yes, our government has said that there is an increased threat of terrorism in Sweden. Now, it's very unlikely to die because of terrorism, but the thought always exists.
 
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