Wish You Waziristan shows the disappointing reality of jihad
In today's Guardian, Shiv Malik writes of the Foreign Office banning - or at least suspending - a video it commissioned from Bold Creative called 'Wish you were Waziristan'. The video is about young men joining jihad overseas. The likely reason seems to be that the FCO was worried that the sytle of the video, which is manga-esque, might offend. Or belittle the subject. Or annoy hard pressed tax payers. Or all three. I'm not entirely sure. Though the short video is now complete, it can't be viewed, save for a few short snippets.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said the film made light of the battle against terrorism, and he thinks it would be ineffective at best, counter-productive at worst. Mr Shafiq is very wide of the mark indeed. I am lucky enough to have seen the six minute video several times. It tells the story of young brothers who travel to Waziristan to train for jihad. The younger of the two is apeing his brother, who he clearly looks up to. Drawn by romantic, misguided ideas of life as a mujahideen, the two brothers come to realise that all is not as it seems. The camp is ramshackle. The people treat them like dogsbodies. The realise they've been misled.
The key thing about the video is that it is all based on a true story, uncovered by careful research by the filmmakers. And this true story I have seen repeated over and over - the Benchellali cell, the Lackwanna 6, and many more. Musab al-Suri, once al-Qaeda's top ideologue used to complain that the camps were just ways for 'Arabs to cleanse themselves after having spent a week with whores in Bangkok'. Perhaps Mr Shafiq should familiarise himself with the subject a little more. Of course many people go to training camps for a variety of reasons. But stripping the pseudo-heroism of camp training seems to me to be one important way to deglamourise al-Qaeda.
I hope therefore that the FCO backs down. The more people that see it the better. It is anything but trivial.