In the summer of 2014, on the heels of the declaration of a ‘caliphate’ by the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a wave of satirical production depicting the group flooded the Arab media landscape. Seemingly spontaneous in some instances and tightly measured in others, the Arab comedy offensive paralleled strategic efforts by the United States and its allies to ‘take back the Internet’ from ISIS propagandists. In this essay, I examine the role of aesthetics, broadly, and satire in particular, in the creation and execution of ‘counter-narratives’ in the war against ISIS. Drawing on the pioneering theories of Fred Forest and others, I argue that in the age of digital reproduction, truth-based messaging campaigns underestimate the power of myth in swaying hearts and minds. As a modus of expression conceived as an act of fabrication, satire is poised to counter myth with myth. But artists must balance a very fine line.
Soon after winning the Nobel prize in1988a fatwa was issued against Mahfouz by the blind shaykh of al-Jamaʿa al-Islamiyya Omar ‘Abd al-Rahman for his novel Children of the Alley. Mahfouz narrowly survived an attempt on his life five years later.