Originally premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, The Believers are but Brothers was written and performed by Javaad Alipoor. The play looks at radicalisation amongst young people, including the causes and reasoning behind extreme views, plus the role played by the internet.
Alipoor takes the examples of three young men. Two are British Muslims attracted to the ISIS cause in Syria, the other a white American who spends his time in right-wing chatrooms. Whilst the specific details of their lives are different, they actually have much in common. Angry at a world that is not providing the opportunities they need, they’re like many young people and teenagers. The difference in the modern media age is that they aren’t restricted to staying in their rooms, listening to The Smiths and reading Beat poetry. Now – thanks to the internet – they have access to exciting, secret worlds and a whole host of causes to become passionate about.
The spotlight here might be on modern media outlets such as the internet, but it’s clear that many of the causes of radicalisation are part of a larger, swept-under-the carpet problem. If the news in our newspapers and on our televisions isn’t telling us the truth, then we cannot expect individuals online to give a balanced view either.
There is plenty humour to be found in the piece, and it’s these elucidations that sadly don’t make it into the newspapers or on the BBC. For instance, Alipoor details that many of the men who have left the UK to fight for the likes of ISIS overseas simply don’t have the physicality to be of use in a war, coming from sat-down office jobs. The journey to fight overseas thus becomes nothing more than a gap-year – kept out of a war they are incapable of joining, they are instead protected and used merely as propaganda tools.
There are many young people living without hope across the world, the UK being no different. The politics of austerity have coincided with a rise in young people committing suicide – more men are now committing suicide than dying of cancer – and there is a definite sense that becoming radicalised can provide a solution to the black thoughts many young people are feeling.
A parallel of sorts could be drawn with the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, when many disenfranchised young people became attached to violent causes they never would’ve considered had there been jobs, houses, opportunities and genuine alternatives.
In cutting through the nonsense presented as news and opening a window into the real world of radicalisation, Alipoor has created a truly vital, entertaining and thought-provoking piece of theatre.