Yallahrup Faergeby, television series
by Nanna Westh
Produced by Bjarke Ahlstrand. Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 2007
Reviewed by Ali Alfoneh
University of Copenhagen
Middle East Quarterly
On December 1, 2007, the Danish television channel DR2 began running Yallahrup Faergeby (O Allah ferry town), a daily series in which puppets address political and social taboos—often in politically incorrect fashion—including Muslim integration, social ghettos, and Islamist preachers' recruitment of youngsters for terrorism.
The story, which parodies the 1974 puppet show "Jullerup Faergeby," unfolds in the imaginary Copenhagen suburb of Yallahrup, which is populated by immigrants, druggies, drunkards, and do-gooders. In this graffiti-tagged concrete hell, Ali, a teenager of Palestinian descent, struggles to overcome his late sexual development and tries to win "respect" from the Crazy Girls: blonde Lousie, veiled Dilan, and a third member of the gang who remains silent and nameless. At the same time, he tries to outdo Dennis, the dullard neighborhood strongman.
Ali dreams of becoming a real "gangsta," mistakes Yallahrup for Los Angeles, and sees himself alternately as Tony Montana, the fictional protagonist in Brian DePalma's Scarface, or rapper Tupac Shakur. Ali's best friend, the romantic, poetic Hassan, is of Moroccan descent and stands by Ali in his adventures, such as selling Dennis dog excrement instead of cannabis, trying to frustrate the "integration efforts" of the depressive school librarian, Morten, and ridiculing the nymphomaniac head mistress of the school, Hanne.
The puppet show's portrayal of Abu Babu, the local Pakistani Islamist preacher, was expected to be most controversial. "Many think you ought to be sad and sorry, just because you are a fundamentalist. Nothing could be more wrong; come to me little boys, don't be shy!" sings the preacher in his lead song, "Give Osama a Hug." With a funky beat and a cool dance, Abu Babu tries to recruit Yallahrup children for suicide terrorism. To Ali, however, "Abu Babu is too gay to be a real gangsta" and, indeed, the Islamist preacher seems interested in rather more worldly pleasures, such as undressing and waxing the boys prior to planned "martyrdom operations," than he is in the seventy-two virgins promised him in the next world.
It did raise eyebrows among the Danish public that Abu Babu holds the Qur'an in his hand and claims he is "married to God." But while the Islamists may claim offense, it is telling that they do not see anything wrong in real-life Abu Babu's holding the Qur'an while teaching children to kill Jews and infidels because "the Prophet of Islam did so."
Having seen the entire series, one must say that the idea behind Yallahrup Faergeby is far better than the actual performance. A better and more creative script that avoided repetitive themes would have been welcome.
A little more than a year after the Danish cartoon controversy, Yallahrup Faergeby is Danish society's response. Rather than retaliating against the violent attacks upon Danish embassies abroad by setting the Syrian, Lebanese, or Iranian embassies in Copenhagen ablaze or by targeting Muslim Danes with violence, Danish society has chosen to deepen the sense of community among all Danes. The Abu Babus are the enemies of Denmark's open society, the true xenophobes and racists. But Ali, Hassan, Louise, Dilan, Morten, Hanne, and all the others, despite some of their brushes with the Abu Babus of Denmark, share a common home and a common Danish destiny.
 "Abu Babu—En Krammer Til Osama," Yallahrup Faergeby, accessed June 17, 2008.
Related Topics: Muslims in Europe | Ali Alfoneh | Fall 2008 MEQ
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