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What’s so funny about beheading videos? Plus: The latest on BBC reporter Alan Johnston

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By Michelle Malkin  •  April 15, 2007 10:37 PM

Saw this at The Jawa Report: “One of Britain’s best-known writers has been nominated for the National Short Story Prize for a story inspired by watching videos of hostages being murdered by their Islamic captors.”

The writer is Hanif Kureishi. The story is “Weddings and Beheadings.” It’s told from the perspective of an Iraqi cameraman employed to tape jihadist beheading videos. Instead of revulsion, horror, or outrage upon viewing terrorist snuff films, Kureishi apparently laughed up a storm.

The London Times reports:

The author had the idea for the work, shortlisted for the National Short Story Prize, after seeing grainy video footage on the television news of the scenes leading up to beheadings. This led to him imagining the life of the man behind the camera.

“The idea started with a joke,” said Kureishi, 52. “I thought, what if you were a cameraman, having to do these kind of jobs and you had a business card that said ‘Weddings and Beheadings’? I thought it was hilarious and told my children about it, but they just stared at me blankly.”

He added: “Seeing the footage, I started to think what about that wobbly camera — what is the story of that bloke trembling behind the camera? You’re only going to get one take, you know, would be the line.”

Kureishi said he saw the person doing the filming not as a terrorist but as an innocent roped in for his ability to use a video camera, “like any young guy, living in Camden wanting to make movies, except that he happens to be in Baghdad”.

Kureishi denied his story was disrespectful to victims and their families. “Very black comedy can be a way to look at these things,” he said. “We have to have some way of looking at awful things in the world.”

Sick enough. Even sicker:

The BBC–which, as I noted last week, won’t air a drama about Britain’s youngest surviving Victoria Cross hero “because it feared it would alienate members of the audience opposed to the war in Iraq”–is scheduled to air Kureishi’s story this week.

Meanwhile, a Gaza militant group says it has killed BBC reporter Alan Johnston.

Hanif Kureishi’s sides must be splitting as he awaits the release of a new beheading video. A promotional hook! Bloody good! High-larious!

Here’s an excerpt from “Weddings and Beheadings:”

Until recently my closest friend filmed beheadings; however, he’s not a director, only a writer really. I wouldn’t say anything, but I wouldn’t trust him with a camera. He isn’t too sure about the technical stuff, how to set up the equipment, and then how to get the material through the computer and on to the internet. It’s a skill, obviously.

He was the one who had the idea of getting calling cards inscribed with “Weddings and Beheadings” inscribed on them. If the power’s on, we meet in his flat to watch movies on video. When we part, he jokes, “Don’t bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don’t go losing your head now. Chin up!”

A couple of weeks ago he messed up badly. The cameras are good quality, they’re taken from foreign journalists, but a bulb blew in the one light he was using, and he couldn’t replace it. By then they had brought the victim in. My friend tried to tell the men, “It’s too dark, it’s not going to come out and you can’t do another take.” But they were in a hurry, he couldn’t persuade them to wait, they were already hacking through the neck and he was in such a panic he fainted. Luckily the camera was running. It came out underlit, of course—what did they expect? I liked it; Lynchian, I called it, but they hit him around the head, and never used him again.

Kenneth Bigley, Jack Hensley, Paul Johnson, Eugene Armstrong, and Nick Berg had no comment.

***

Update on Alan Johnston: CNN reports…

The BBC said Sunday it is “deeply concerned” about an unknown militant group’s claim that it has killed a BBC reporter kidnapped last month in Gaza, but is treating the statement as a “rumor with no independent verification.”

In a statement faxed to news agencies Sunday, the Tawad and Jihad Brigades promised to “distribute a video showing his killing to media channels soon.”

Palestinian officials said they have no evidence or information that reporter Alan Johnston, who was apparently abducted at gunpoint on March 12, was killed.

Palestinian Interior Minister Hani Qawasame said Sunday that as far as he is aware, Johnston is alive, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said that the kidnappers have made no demands.

The BBC has informed Johnston’s family of the statement and is working with Palestinian officials to investigate the claim.

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