Iraqi Sitcom Against ISIS

by Taameem Almaliki, Project Nur Coordinator at American Islamic Congress

My comparative literature professor at UMD would be so happy to see me writing about movies and TV shows. I took a class called Movies in the Global Society and I began to enjoy writing about the connections between film and our society.

Today I will write about a recent acclaimed Iraqi TV show called “Dawlat Alkhurafa.” Translated, it is called “The State of Nonsense.” The title of the show is a play on the word “Caliphate,” which refers to the original Caliphate, 1400 years ago. ISIS claims they want to apply the laws and lifestyle of the Caliphate today.

My favorite Iraqi comedians came together during Ramadan to ridicule ISIS. Iraqi people were tired of constantly hearing about the violent and radical actions of this group. You would watch traumatic images on TV every day, but with the help of a team of famous comedians and famous comic poets, a creative director and writer launched a new 30 episode show during Ramadan.

I avoid watching the news because I get upset with the constant coverage of violence. I am also too busy to watch television shows, but this Fall I decided that I would watch this show. Thankfully, I can watch it on YouTube. I wish these episodes also had English subtitles. I know everyone would love it.

This Iraqi sitcom has also caught the attention of Western media outlets like BBC and Foreign Policy. The BBC published an article titled, “The Iraqis Who Laugh at ISIS,” which I enjoyed reading. Why is this show so good? I think this sitcom is heroic. I’ve read many times that artists are looking for valuable work to take stand for important issues. What is more important than showing to fellow Iraqis that ISIS is just a group of gangsters and extremists who are trying to force people to live in the dark ages? This kind of activism should be in all kinds of art, especially when you see your fellow Iraqis experiencing ongoing trauma in the last 30 years – from Saddam’s wars to the violence of ISIS. In countries that experience a dictatorship, you will always hear poetry, political jokes, and creative voices, which show that people try to express their dissent. It is a different form of freedom of expression. The same is true for a newly formed democratic system that has faced difficulties and instability since it has been established. Iraqi drama has been very active in criticizing the current pitfalls in the system of Iraqi democracy, but I consider this sitcom the peak of all the artistic works since 2003.

One thing I like about this sitcom is the theme song at the beginning of the show. It is a parody of the original “song” usually sung by ISIS fighters. In the original song, ISIS member sing praises to their leader who behead innocent people. However, in the Iraqi sitcom, the lyrics were changed to make fun of the group by directly calling ISIS leaders humiliating and derogatory names.I also like the makeup and costumes. The stories in the sitcom make fun of every statement ISIS declares. The actor who resembles ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi is quite similar to the original dirty character that leads that group. The intro to the show is also powerful because it ends with ISIS being exploded. It reiterates the ridiculousness of ISIS.

What makes this show so hilarious to me is watching two famous comic poets sit in a cafe and tell jokes about ISIS members whenever they enter the city or when an ISIS TV announcer is covered from head to toe, and then she takes off the face cover during breaks to breathe. It is hilarious! I recommend that everyone should watch it.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of American Islamic Congress or any employee thereof.