Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Death threats for Saudi star who fights ISIL with satire

Nasser Al Qasabi is unfazed by the death threats he has received over his comedy 'Selfie' and believes that 'warning the people about ISIL is the true jihad'.
Saudi actor Nasser Al Qasabi, second from the left, in the new Saudi TV show 'Selfie' – a sketch comedy that debuted last week on Saudi-owned pan-Arab satellite channel MBC. Al Qasabi has been unfazed by threats he has received from the militants' supporters since the premier. MBC handout via Reuters
Saudi actor Nasser Al Qasabi, second from the left, in the new Saudi TV show 'Selfie' – a sketch comedy that debuted last week on Saudi-owned pan-Arab satellite channel MBC. Al Qasabi has been unfazed by threats he has received from the militants' supporters since the premier. MBC handout via Reuters

A prominent Saudi comedian has received death threats for deploying a new weapon against ISIL: laughter.

Nasser Al Qasabi, who appears in a new satirical television sitcom, said on Monday that he has “the right to express an opinion”.

Selfie debuted last week on MBC, the Saudi-owned satellite channel based in Dubai, and has been praised by some for daring to mock the hardline militant group.

In his sitcom that is aired during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Al Qasabi is a Saudi father who pretends he wants to join ISIL in Syria in order to bring back his son who became an extremist.

In one scene, a group of buffoonish holy warriors at a “girl market” picks concubines from a line of chained women abducted from the battlefield.

“Come on guys!” interjects a naive character played by Al Qasabi. “This is forbidden by Islam, these are just children!”

“God forgives!” the ringleader snapped back.

As one fighter picks a slave “wife” of a mustachioed man in a woman’s black robe, a friend points out the apparent mistake.

“No problem!” the first fighter says. “If he’s an infidel, he deserves this!”

Al Qasabi said his show’s message, though presented in the form of satire, is deadly serious.

He said he has been unfazed by threats he has received from the militants’ supporters since the premier.

“God is my protector. I’m an artist, and the artist’s essential role is to reveal society’s challenges even if he pays a price,” he told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV on Sunday.

In a typical response from a supporter of the militants, a Twitter user named Jalabeeb Al Jizrawi wrote to Al Qasabi: “I swear to god you will regret what you did, you apostate.”

“The holy warriors will not rest until they cut your head from your body, in just a few days hopefully,” he wrote in a post that was retweeted more than 3,000 times.

The militants are known for their own skilful use of media, filming beheadings and distributing well-produced war documentaries that attract foot soldiers to the field and virtual armies of backers in online social networks.

However, a wave of support has hit social media networks, including Arabic hashtags on Twitter saying “we are all Nasser Al Qasabi” and “Qasabi mocks Daesh”.

AI Qasabi says that “warning the people about ISIL is the true jihad, because we’re fighting them with art not war”.

In one episode, Al Qasabi faces executioners after his cover is blown, only to find his own son demanding to be the one to behead him. He also ridicules female militants said to have joined ISIL to offer its fighters sex.

* Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Updated: June 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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