THE BLOG
01/23/2015 03:10 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

The Anti-Extremist Satire No One Is Talking About

The Washington Post via Getty Images

As we hear the ongoing debate of whether we are or aren't Charlie, there is a whole other world of satire aimed at extremists that no one is mentioning. The irony is that in the realm of anti-extremist satire the images from Charlie Hebdo are some of the tamest out there.

Let's start with one key piece of the story. Already within the Muslim world there is a significant amount of anti-extremist satire and comedy. As John Hall reports: television networks in the Middle East offer viewers "a Looney Tunes-style cartoon poking fun at militant Islamists fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq." These cartoons depict the group "as narcissistic, deluded and obsessed with a literal interpretation of Islam that forces them go to ridiculous lengths to ensure they do not use any item that wasn't available in the 7th Century."

While everyone is debating the pros and cons of French satire, they are ignoring the robust and vibrant world of Middle Eastern satire. In keeping with satirists the world over, those producing satire in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region use the subtle and layered art of satire rather than direct speech to mock those with power. Through irony and puns they are able to send messages that expose the absurdity of those they target.

Nabil Assaf, writer and producer on Lebanon's ISIS-mocking Ktir Salbe Show, reminds us of how the Islamic community has not only worked to condemn the extremists, but also how they have chosen to use satire to do it: "These people are not a true representation of Islam and so by mocking them, it is a way to show we are against them."

One of the most notorious examples of this satire is the Iraqi state TV's show "State of Myths," which depicts ISIS leader Al'Baghdadi as being hatched from an egg. After using satire to diminish the extremist leader, they then show him killing every single one of his men. The show is bravely using humor to help deflect the state of fear caused by extremists.

As Ed Krayeski explains "Satirizing radical Islam is not the exclusive domain of white Western Europeans." In fact, there is far more satire of Islamic extremists coming out of the Muslim world than the west. And in those cases, the satirists are producing this humor at great personal risk; but also with great potential public impact.

In another example Palestinian TV channel al-Falastiniya aired a skit showing two militants killing Muslim civilians for their lack of knowledge on the number of times to kneel during prayers. Next a Jordanian Christian approaches and the militants fight over who gets to shoot him - competing for who gets the 'blessing' for himself. While they fight over him, the frightened Jordanian suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the militants disappointed at no being able to take credit for his death.

As Professor Marwan Kraidy explains, this satire is widely available throughout the region from state produced TV available via satellite to independently made YouTube videos. Twitter users also regularly jump in to mock the extremists. One example is the hashtag #ISISmovies which is used by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to offer mock extremist movie titles like "To Kill a Mocking Kurd."

There is also a whole host of satire aimed at the extreme and grotesque propaganda produced by ISIS and al Qaeda. This is satire that uses shock tactics that come dangerously close to that which they are parodying -- and it is not for the faint of heart. One of these is @CaliphIbrahimAR described as a self appointed Caliph. Another comes from @Shkh_AL_Adnani who recently posted a tweet with a photo of two dead militants shown with their pants down and the line: "Mashallah! Our brothers took off their clothes and patiently await their virgins. Any minute now."

Certainly if we are wondering if Charlie Hebdo crossed any lines we need to be aware of this humor as well. The French satirists were working within a far wider, global network of artists interested in using irony, humor, and mockery to attack the ideology of extremists. And all of these artists are crossing lines: It's not easy to mock beheadings and indiscriminate murder without ruffling feathers.

What this also shows us is that while some in the west wonder whether there is "condemnation" of extremism from the Muslim community, we can prove that there is a vibrant critique of extremism from all quarters in the Muslim world. And we can also prove that some of that criticism uses the very same type of satire as Charlie Hebdo.