Family members of teenage girls believed to have gone to Syria to join ISIL say police kept them in the dark.
A BBC sketch satirising British women who have left to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group has attracted controversy and praise alike online.
The two-minute-long skit titled The Real Housewives of ISIS features four British Muslim women who have left their homes in the UK to join the armed group in Syria.
First published online on Tuesday, the sketch has picked up millions of views on Facebook and has been shared widely on other social media platforms.
One scene portrays a woman undecided about what to wear to a beheading, and another shows two of the women angry at each other for wearing the same suicide vest.
The segment is part of a comedy show called Revolting, which directs its humour at lampooning current affairs issues.
Muslim sketch creator Faraz Ali described the BBC skit as “poor taste”.
“For the few documented events where young girls, often under 18, have left the UK, there is no doubt this has been a result of dangerous grooming and misguidance,” he said.
“Making light of this situation feels inherently wrong, almost capitalising on the suffering of these young girls who acted without proper insight,” he added.
Ali said that while there was merit in mocking ISIL, doing so “runs the risk of making light of the very real and significant problems ISIL leaves in its wake”.
Constructing an image of Muslim women as oppressed and fond of terrorism at a time of widespread gendered Islamophobia is deeply sinister.
— Harry (@HarryShotton) January 4, 2017
British Muslim comedian Ali Shahalom was one of the many who welcomed the segment, describing it as “very funny” in a Facebook post, adding he was not offended by the material.
“The sketch ridicules online grooming and draws attention to an important topic,” he said.
“From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t offend religion. Satire like this highlights the absurdity of those that recruit and get recruited for ISIS,” he added.
Shahalom acknowledged the sensitivities of covering the topic but said it was one writers should not be afraid to approach.
The real housewives of Isis "comedy" that the BBC is going to air just isn't right. You can't make a joke out of it… Cause it's not funny
— Kayleigh (@KayAndrews94) January 4, 2017
@BBC2 'The Real Housewives of Isis': Very funny! thank you for finding humour in such dark times and for being daring.U need to push limits
— 🌎agatdeblues #FBPE 🇪🇺🇫🇷🇺🇸 (@agathejagiella) January 4, 2017
Debate played out in the comment section underneath the video on Facebook, with many not as impressed with the skit as Shahalom.
“Bad taste, not funny at all,” said commenter Anna Butcher.
“I’m sure those who have been effected by ISIS, or [have] been victims of them, or the relatives of those killed in terrorists attacks, won’t be laughing?” she added, using an alternate acronym for ISIL.
Warwick University academic Sara Salem said that while such comedy set out to show how “ridiculous” Islamophobic ideas were, it ended up reinforcing such stereotypes instead.
“The trouble with this type of humour is that it ignores the broader context in which it will be revived, namely British society,” Salem said.
“While it may challenge some people’s conceptions of Muslim women by making light of tropes we hear of constantly, for many others it won’t serve as anything more than comedy based on things they already believe in and will continue believing in.
“Not only is it not a challenge to these stereotypes, it is using them to make light of what is ultimately not a very funny situation.”
The creators of Revolting, Heydon Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein, have previously drawn controversy for their satire and daring political pranks.
Pro-Israel groups reacted angrily when the pair pretended to be building contractors and visited shops in London to tell them their businesses would be confiscated to expand the nearby Israeli embassy.
The pair also put up posters at the International Criminal Court demanding the arrest of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and in another stunt tried to present a plaque to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for his purported talent for lying.