The State

Issue section: 

Channel 4’s The State is a four-part drama following two British men and two British women who decide to go to Syria and join Islamic State. As you can expect, the subject matter itself is incredibly divisive. The harrowing drama was not an easy watch, but an important one.

The first episode feels like an adventure film as four Britons leave their everyday lives to join Isis. One man hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and persuades his best friend to accompany him along the journey.

A single mother hopes to practise medicine; and a teenager embraces the radical doctrines she encounters online. Everyone’s reason is different — but they all have a hope for a better life at the end of it all.

The Daily Mail has accused the series of glamorising Islamic State, suggesting that the series presents IS as a “really super cool club”. There is nothing “really super cool” about the harrowing scene in episode three where the men are shown buying women as slaves, having been previously told that it is permissible for them to have sex with girls that are yet to reach puberty.

Watching some of the men seek to justify rape by deploying their own ideological interpretations is no more easy to watch.

The State shows how terrorist atrocities are valuable and can be used for ideological and personal gain without ever showing any real concern for the victims, whoever they might be.

The four Britons are shown to be intelligent and informed, the men soft-spoken and the women strong. While it would be easier for us to dismiss everyone who decides to travel and join Islamic State as being misguided and misinformed, the reality is that this probably isn’t so.

Writer and director Peter Kosminsky — who was also behind the drama The Promise, about the Israel-Palestine conflict — has been criticised for not portraying all potential jihadists as wild-eyed, bloodthirsty fanatics.

But this is why the series is so effective: it insists that those who seek to travel and join IS, and endorse and indeed commit horrific atrocities, are real people. While many of us may not be able to see the humanity in their actions or in the ideological beliefs they hold, it is an important reminder.