We now stand at the second episode of this four part series. We begin with our Daesh soldiers taking a “selfie” in the back of what appears to be a Datsun truck. It’s after the oath of allegiance has been given and the men make their way to the front line to set up for a pitched battle.
As usual, we had the friendly white guy (sub-plot: he must be a spy ’cause he’s white!) giving greeting to everyone while our Pakistani heroes sneered in derision as if to say, “Is he new here or something?”
Back at the ladies dorm, the girls are playing dress up, putting niqabs on each other instead of individually standing in the mirror like normal people as women do. They are standing just outside of a local market and preparing for something ominous.
The girls walk along and find some women who are in violation. Some have a niqab that is just to thin…others have an abaya that is not loose enough (the runners at the bottom of the screen again! Yes!)…and then finally they come across the target.
A woman uncovered and in the market speaking with one of the shop keepers. She is taken and beaten about the feet with what at first glance looks like a bamboo rod for not having her mahrem with her at the market.
This is actually a factual presentation. Daesh frequently confined women to their quarters and refused to let them out. There is no text for this at all. The only Ahadith on restriction are well known, one of them being in Al-Baihaqi’s collection in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,
“No woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day should travel a day and a night except having a mahram with him.”
This is understood by all scholars to mean more than the distance for shortening prayers, meaning 48+ miles. In spite of this, Daesh’s response is to do the one thing they say they never do: interpret and analogise.
They say that this time is more filthy than before and that the safest place for a woman in this situation is in the house. They then take a hadith about women praying at home and standardise it to women in general. Gotta love it!
Umm Zubair, our West Indian token, came for no other reason than patience but also to help the wounded. She said that her degree would be of use and was rebuffed. One day she took her son Isaac and said she is going. Showing her paper to the reluctant den mother, she quickly makes her way to the hospital.
When she first arrives, the administrator rebuffs her and tells her to go home. She is persistent though. She returns pleading for a second chance and is interrupted by an overworked floor doctor who urgently requests her help. The administrator relents but not without grumbling.
When we get back to the men, we find our Pakistani protagonist making more friends with some of the whites there; he then sneaks a call home and his terrified mother now realises her son has fled to Syria. What in the HELL is he doing calling home with an unsecure phone with a traceable SIM card?
That aside, we are also treated to the injured in need of medical attention at a short staffed hospital. Not enough medicine, not enough blood in the refrigerator, not enough tunicates. The imagery here is decent although a little overdone.
The protagonist man learns that the British soldier working with them has secrets of his own but better training and better reasons for being there. We next come to a marriage between Ishra and an Arab who by his accent is most likely Libyan.
She knows no Arabic with English while the man knows no English and only Arabic. The marriage ceremony is so creepy it makes me wonder if they consulted the makers of Friday the 13th for atmosphere and lighting.
As the men take their victory lap through Raqqa, one of them is interviewing the people on the street with a camera and handheld mic along with armed men in the back. Our Daesh spokesman gave a soft smile and asked, “How has life been in the Islamic State.”
When the guy answered in Arabic, “Oh, so good! All our needs are met. We are so happy!” I fell out laughing and had to rewind it. I thought of the scene in Extremities when the rapist had the knife put to his throat and was forced to answer in the affirmative to a number of statements.
And again to complete the episode, we had to have the stereotypical Jamaican guy making lewd references and ranting, gun in hand with a dismayed crowd. The episode jumps back to Ishra meeting the mujahid from earlier in the marital bed and she is scared witless. I love the Arabic dialogue.
“Don’t fear me. You are so sweet…oh, so sweet…” Man, this stuff is so bad…it’s so good. I’m sure this is going to be a cult classic like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hair or Grease. It’s just gotta be.
I believe this scene is supposed to scare viewers but it only left me feeling like this was a bad advertisement for Molly McButter. When we go back to the men, they are made to witness the amputation of a man’s hand with a meat cleaver.
What? No local anaesthetic? Nope. It appears that the screaming man was left to his fate. As with their custom, the lengthy Arabic dialogue beforehand went untranslated and thus monolinguals are just left with seeing a hand get hacked and a guy screaming.
The Arabic wasn’t actually vile or harmful at all. It kept in line with the standard Daesh stuff we normally hear. The man was being punished for having stolen and that this is the fate for all who violate the norms of what Allah has revealed. This is the gist of what was said.
For the sake of theatre, I think they left that out and they just let the guy screaming like a chicken to drive the point home. You see, this is what happens when Islam is left to rule! That’s the point being driven home.
Isaac is going down the path to violence as Umm Zubair turned him over to his new school. At first he is reticent but as time goes on he warms to the killing, violence, degradation and all around savagery.
Umm Zubair takes to doing videos for Daesh and often gives contradictory reports on what she is meant to give to the wider audience. No glowing reviews but instead almost a warning. Good cinematography and showing the internal struggle of Umm Zubair.
The Pakistani protagonist ends out the episode with an Arab soldier who is working on an American truck. Our protagonist strikes up a conversation and over time the music lets us know something momentous is to come. There it is…its’ coming! Here it is!
The very reason he came to Raqqa in the first place was to follow after his brother and be like him. Now in speaking to his Arab compatriot he wants to know about his brother. The Arab soldier looks at him coolly and responds that his brother did not die in battle as he thinks. He was executed as a deserter.
The episode concludes with Umm Zubair putting to bed a newly hardened Isaac and the protagonist looking at the picture of his deceased brother with new disgust and spending a sleepless night. What a cliffhanger!