The Believers Are But Brothers (Bush Theatre)

Posted: January 27, 2018 in Theatre

Writer and co-director: Javaad Alipoor      Co-director: Kirsty Housley


“Keep your mobile ‘phones ON and keep them on LOUD” we are instructed, thereby making this different from any normal visit to the theatre before even leaving the foyer. But Javaad Alipoor’s hour-long show/presentation/lecture is anything but a normal visit to the theatre.

Alipoor’s topic is radicalisation. Heard and seen over a sea of loud pings and lit-up screens, he acknowledges that extremism attaches itself to many causes, political or religious, but, himself a Moslem, he makes clear from the outset that he is talking specifically about Islamic extremism. He is also clear that he is talking about Moslem men, explaining how he had found it impossible to gather evidence of the views of women.

The starting point is 2003, when, Alipoor tells us, Western forces attacked Sunni Moslems in Iraq, thereby further alienating Moslems world-wide who had felt oppressed and marginalised over the course of many centuries. This coincided with the explosion in global communications. From the stories of individuals and images projected onto a screen, we come to see how the virtual violence of video games merges into the violence of real warfare and terrorist acts. The internet had changed everything.

Societies in all countries have always produced outsiders, those with extreme views, or psychopaths, but now, we are shown, the means to galvanise and inspire them had arrived. We learn of extremist views that “cucks” (derived from cuckolds and referring to weak, usually liberal-minded men) have surrendered to “false” concepts such as the gender pay gap. The extent of the divergence of Western society and conservative Islam, with regard to the roles of women, now becomes chilling.

We are all asked to join a WhatsApp group so that messages and images can pass back and forth between the presenter and members of the audience. The ‘phone pings and we respond, instinctively, automatically and the message or image is logged in our brains. The insidious power of instant messaging becomes clear, but the point is made early and the constant sound of still more pings, possibly mixed in with those generated by friends and loved ones, begins to distract us from what Alipoor is trying to tell us.

We are offered no solutions to radicalisation. Alipoor does not seek to admonish his multi-faith or no faith audience and certainly not to radicalise us. His mission is to enlighten us and, hopefully, to generate greater understanding, a commodity that, it seems, has been in short supply so far in the 21st Century.

Performance date: 26 January 2018

Photo: The Other Richard

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:



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