Opinion

Shazia Mirza: Isis aren’t radicalising girls. They’re selling them fantasy

"These girls are horny teenagers – and Isis are the One Direction of Islam," writes comedian Shazia Mirza

I’ve been asked to perform my new show in Paris. I love the city. I have been there many times and had so much fun. But I am nervous this time. Comedy is all about timing. Is this the right time to do a comedy show about Isis in the city where they have just orchestrated such shocking terror attacks?

What happened in Paris has changed things all over the world. I was worried about my safety and whether the audience would laugh. I know the show is funny but given what’s happened in Paris, would that change everything?

Award-winning stand-up comic Shazia Mirza.

The show is my take on why some young girls have chosen to go off to join Isis. It came about when I was in New York, staying with a friend I went to school with in Birmingham. We watched the news about girls from Bethnal Green who went to join Isis. Like them, my friend is Bangladeshi. And she was shocked. We both were. Why are they doing this?

Mine was a strict upbringing. We were never allowed out, we were never allowed to wear skirts, we weren’t allowed to talk to boys. It was restrictive. I was meant to do my GCSEs and A-Levels, go to university, get a degree, come home, have an arranged marriage, have children, get a normal job. But I was always curious. I wanted to do something different.

We rebelled but in smaller ways. We went to nightclubs with gay men and took ecstasy. We danced all night in Birmingham. Isis weren’t around when we were growing up. But we didn’t go off to join the IRA or start helping Gaddafi out.

Mine was a strict upbringing. We were never allowed out, we were never allowed to wear skirts, we weren’t allowed to talk to boys

So I started thinking what made them take such a drastic step. The first thing I realised is that it is nothing to do with religion or politics. My parents are very religious. I had to go to the mosque after school every day. But I didn’t know the real meaning of my religion. And I certainly didn’t know anything about politics.

These girls don’t know anything about the essence of Islam or religion. This is not kids being radicalised. Loads of Muslim women I have spoken to think the same as me but you won’t hear this in the news. The West want to think it is some religious or political reason. But it is very simple why they are going: they are horny teenagers who fancy these guys and are rebelling.

It is purely sexual, and it is a fantasy. These guys are hot, macho, hairy, with guns. They are the One Direction of Islam – sex symbols to these young girls.

Satire to me is part of being British. It is part of our culture, our history. We do it very well

If some gorgeous man had written to me and sent pictures and asked me to join him, it might have seemed like an exciting way out. But it is nothing to do with religion. All the Muslim girls and boys I have spoken to agree with me.

I’m a comedian. Everything I write or want to say has to in some way be funny. I’ve made jokes about 9/11, terrorism and now Isis. Satire to me is part of being British. It is part of our culture, our history. We do it very well. I used to watch Dave Allen, Fawlty Towers, Dad’s Army, Blackadder, Not the Nine O’Clock News, all of which were brilliant and different.

I have laughed at “Don’t Mention The War” but at times like this, war needs to be mentioned everywhere. What would be most painful to these people – Isis, terrorists, extremists – is to ridicule and laugh at them. That will be more painful and crushing to their egos than hitting them with a bomb.

People are sick of politicians and self-appointed community leaders, who look the part in their beards and dresses. No one believes or wants to hear their drivel. What we all love is a bit of a laugh. Everything going on in the world now involves and affects everyone. It would be stupid to stay silent. The best thing is to joke about and laugh about it. This is how the Jews got through the dark times.

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I am really fed up at having to represent, apologise and disassociate myself from the actions of deranged individuals who claim to share the same faith as me. Every time one of ‘my people’ blows something up, we have to issue a #hashtag to say we condemn them.

In December, that comedian Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for all Muslims to join him in that hell hole, which they advertise like a Club 18-30 holiday in Ibiza. He said: “We urgently call upon every Muslim to join the fight.” He’s off his rocker. I tweeted him, saying: “Sorry mate but I’ve just had my nails done and I don’t want them to snap in the Wild West. I’m also making pancakes tonight…”

I have performed in Kosovo, Pakistan, Lahore, Karachi. I went when it was pretty unstable. I like to go to places where they probably wouldn’t see someone like me performing comedy. But Paris feels different. I have no idea how people will react.

Shazia Mirza’s new show The Kardashians Made Me Do It tours from February 5

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