In traditional Islamic terminology the caliph is known as amir al-mu’mineen, or, the prince of the believers. In this new music video, Shaban Abdel Rahim adjusts the Arabic slightly to call him amir al-mugrimeen, the prince of criminals.
The video blasts the Islamic State for its conduct, and declares Islam to be innocent of their crimes. But there is political commentary also. Baghdadi is asked how much money he is receiving from Qatar, and the world is asked why Egypt is being left to fight its local terrorism alone.
These concerns are not unique to Egypt but certainly reflect much popular sentiment about the group. The video also hails the Egyptian army for its role in fighting terrorism in Sinai, where Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) has pledged its allegiance to ISIS. Egypt, however, has committed no troops to the coalition effort in Syria or Iraq.
In my opinion neither the song nor the satire is all that good, but the message is not missed by Baghdadi. According to Paul Attallah, to whom thanks are given for sharing the video and adding English subtitles, Abdel Rahim has already received death threats for his mocking.
Here is another humorous offering, from the Lebanese band, the Great Departed. It is called ‘The moulid of Sidi Baghdadi’, using phrases that laud him as a Sufi saint, an interpretation of Islam he vigorously opposes. The crowd laughs in delight.
The song starts out showering traditional blessings and titles on Baghdadi, but quickly takes a turn into mockery. It has lines like this:
علشان الإسلام رحمة، رح ندبح ونوزع لحمة، وعلشان نخفف زحمة، حنفجر في خلق الله
عشان لا إكراه في الدين فلنقض عالمرتدين والشيعة… والسنيين والنصارى يا خسارة
(In Arabic it rhymes. My awkward translation is “Because Islam is merciful… we’ll butcher and hand out meat/To make it less crowded/We’ll blow folks up/Because there’s no compulsion in religion/we’ll kill unbelievers..and Shia and Sunnis and Christians, what a loss!”)
Arabist makes an interesting point. There is no doubting the cruelty of the group and its desire to be feared. Perhaps the best remedy, therefore, is not to take it seriously. Deny ISIS the strength it seeks.
Surely there are other more practical responses, but the response of humor to crisis is a particularly characteristic Egyptian trait. Military and religious efforts have their place, perhaps, but the cultural struggle may be paramount. It is here these two videos offer their contribution.