Channel 4 and National Geographic have made a drama intended to humanise British jihadists joining Islamic State, with the director claiming terrorists are not driven by Islam and that showing them as “mad, unsympathetic people” is an “easy out”.
Golden Globe and Bafta-winning director Peter Kosminsky told the Radio Times that all Islamic State recruits have a “shallow… connection with their faith” and his four-part drama The State is “supposed to be a cautionary tale” exposing harsh realities faced by recruits.
In a statement, Channel 4 described The State as “a compelling, fictional story based on extensive research” which “follows the experiences of four young British men and women who have left their lives behind to join [Islamic State] in Raqqah, Syria”.
The programmes, also to be shown on National Geographic, proceed to document the alleged hardships of the terrorist recruits, as well as their victims, the statement continues.
“As they experience more of the realities of life in Raqqah, witnessing horrific atrocities carried out by the regime and the bloody aftermath of air strikes, their journeys diverge – into disillusionment and despair…”
The harrowing drama covers everything from rape to beheadings, public whippings, sex slaves, suicide bombings, murder, the repression of women, and child soldiers.
Mr. Kosminsky claimed the filmmakers had to portray the terrorists as human, and not simply evil ideologues, in honour of their victims, including those in the West.
“I personally don’t think we do any service to the people who’ve suffered at the hands of [Islamic State] to pretend that the people who go over there are all clinically insane,” he said at a screening in London.
He also defended his efforts to humanise terrorists by insisting they were not driven by Islamic ideology or insanity but were a mixed bag of normal people.
“It’s easy and comfortable to say that, but unfortunately it’s not true. If you try to look at a pattern of why people might go there, there are very few – they seem to come from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, all different levels of academic attainment.
“The one common factor seems to be a shallowness of their connection with their faith.
“So these people are either converts, recent converts to Islam, or people born Muslim but who’ve only – to use an associated phrase – been ‘born again’ relatively recently and come to an interest in their faith relatively recently.
“It seems from the research that the deeper your knowledge and understanding of Islam, the less likely you are to travel.”