Public broadcaster Channel 4 has aired the first part of a drama set in the Islamic State, described as “an English-language jihadist recruiting video” by a counter-terrorism expert, days after an Islamist terror attack in Barcelona.
The new film follows four Islamic State volunteers from the United Kingdom, and promises the recruits are “soon confronted with the harsh reality of life” in what Channel 4 calls “The State” rather than “The Islamic State”.
However, these “harsh realities” are not immediately obvious in part one of what will be a four-part series. The two male volunteers receive a warm welcome from their new comrades after passing through the Turkish border, while the two females — a strong and glamorous black doctor and a pretty young woman who wishes to be “a lioness among the lions” — are welcomed respectfully as “sisters”.
“You pay no rent or bills, you get your food each month free of charge, plus an allowance,” the women are told by a white American woman — presumably a convert — on their arrival at the camp.
They are then taken to a communal area where happy, smiling young women with their hair uncovered embrace them warmly.
The new recruits do have to give up their mobile phones — for perfectly reasonable security reasons — and one British Islamist (who shows no obvious signs of religious radicalism) hesitates when asked to get rid of some pictures of his mother, as she does not cover her hair.
Channel 4 Drama Humanises Islamic State Terrorists with ‘Shallow Connection’ to Islam
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This is not dwelt on for long, however. The Islamic State authorities are remarkably understanding, with the American convert telling the British doctor that the fact she has come with her young son as a single mother is no problem — her sins will be “wiped clean” once she takes her oath of allegiance.
They are also at pains to disabuse one of the male recruits that he is in the Islamic State to fight, advising him that he is, in fact, “Here for the worship of Allah”.
In another scene, jihadist leaders announce “We are not extremists!” to no-one in particular as they fire guns in the air and have recruits ritually burn their old passports. They also claim Westerners “want war among us — between the Muslims”, as if ISIS followed an inclusive and ecumenical form of Islam rather than one in which all but the most pious Salafists are denounced as heretics.
This all seems to be in line with the director’s assertion that the purpose of his film is “to confront the fact that terrible things are done by people who are not inherently evil”.
The film, aired despite requests from families of the victims of the atrocity in Spain to delay it, was produced by veteran director Peter Kosminsky, who describes himself as a “racially Jewish” atheist.
Kosminsky has previously produced a series called ‘The Promise’ which shows an Israeli soldier using a Palestinian girl as a human shield and flashes back to British soldiers being murdered by Zionists in the old Palestinian Mandate.
Old video footage shows the director claiming the actions of the United States towards American Indians are the reason “America finds it so difficult to take a stand against the illegality and the disgusting behaviour of the State of Israel, because that’s the way they came into existence”.
The Islamic State itself as portrayed in the firlm doesn’t appear an especially difficult place to live. The British recruits, looking around the palm tree-lined surroundings of their terror training camp, make approving remarks about embarking on a “five-star jihad”, joking with a white German convert about him putting a towel down to claim his spot by the pool.
The Islamists later show their light-hearted side at this pool, demonstrating that they are not half so puritanical as the dour white converts and splashing in the water, deciding that their new home “is cool, bruv”.
Meanwhile, the women are taken under the wing of a kindly female instructor, who tells the new arrivals that — while they cannot participate in the jihad as fighters — they should acquire weapons and learn how to use them, so they “do not have to rely on any man” to protect them.
When the American convert asks the new women “What can you do that men can’t do better?” the headstrong female lead is clearly indignant, making a Qu’ranic case for why she should be allowed to ply her craft as a physician to the sick and wounded — quickly accepted by the female instruction, who says all she will just need to cover herself and be furnished with a male guardian, which will be arranged.
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Shown a beheading video, some of the male recruits seem less than enthusiastic. “You don’t like it? That’s OK,” their instructor tells them understandingly.
He explains that the murders are necessary to make Western governments angry enough to send their armies to fight them, and even claims “we want them to defeat us”.
He further explains that their noble, losing fight will help bring on the end times when Islam will triumph over its enemies.
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At the end of the show, the male recruits complete their tough but man-making training and are sworn in, with embraces and salutations all around.
The swearing of the oath of allegiance by the women is a similarly happy moment, with even the headstrong and curiously feminist black doctor clearly happy at being accepted by the friendly group.
The uglier sides of the Islamic State — burning prisoners in cages, massacring men and elderly women from the Christian and Yazidi minorities and using their younger women as sex slaves, and so on — is not portrayed, although it may crop up in the next three parts.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former COBRA committee member and commander of British forces in Helmand, Afghanistan, said the film was “as good an English-language jihadist recruiting video as any I’ve seen.”