Haider Ali Motar was convicted of terrorism charges about a month ago for helping to carry out a string of Baghdad car bombings on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group. Now, the 21-year old is a reluctant cast member in a popular reality TV show.
“In the Grip of the Law” brings convicted terrorists face-to-face with victims in surreal encounters, and celebrates the country’s beleaguered security forces. The show, produced by state-run Iraqiya TV, is among dozens of programs, cartoons and musical public service announcements aimed at shoring up support for the troops after their humiliating defeat last summer at the hands of ISIS, which now controls about a third of the country.
Not just in Iraq, but television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claims of representing Islam. And while not directly confronting the group’s battlefield gains, the shows challenge the legitimacy of its claims and chip away at the fear some have that the Islamic militants are unstoppable.