In the wake of the attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo publication this week, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some Arab media productions satirising ISIS. It seems that many in the West think that all Arabs/Muslims are of one mind, and are unable to mock themselves or their religion. It’s worth pointing out that states such as Iraq, Palestine and Syria suffer at the hands of extremists on a daily basis – no one in this part of the world cares about that, but we demand their condemnation when the rare attack does occur here. The following Onion-style article is from a Lebanese publication; it’s much more nuanced than the crude cartoons of Charlie Hebdo (the original can be viewed here).
ISIS: Coup delayed for ‘Communal Coexistence’
The invasion of Beirut, Lebanon, has been delayed again, according to sources close to Idiot Sycophants of Islamist Saboteurs (ISIS), a self-described “anti-Botox, pro-C4 explosives militia successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Last week, after seizing eastern lands in war-torn Syria and launching lightening attacks across Iraq, ISIS cancelled its initial invasion of Lebanon on account of “crazy traffic, bro.”
ISIS spokesman Saaden Ibn-Jahshein has sought to “reassure the Lebanese public—and all of its communities—that [they] are not far from our thoughts.” In a press conference held on a rugged hill on the outskirts of a Syrian village purportedly under the Assad regime’s control, Ibn-Jahshein promised the Lebanese that their “especially tenuous period of eerie calm” would not persist.
Proclaiming his group’s “enduring desire to invade and occupy Beirut,” he emphasized, however, that ISIS “will invade once the conditions are acceptable. First, we must be assured that Lebanese state institutions and traditional communal leadership positions are restored, fully functional, and running efficiently. Second, we need somebody to help us figure out how to oust non-existent state institutions from power while securing the support of all of your patriarchs, sheikhs, beiks, and khalilyeh yeiks.”
“Our religio-political experts have advised us that we must respect ‘communal coexistence’ for our coup to be legitimate,” explained Ibn-Jahshein. “Apparently, we must overthrow all three of Lebanon’s presidents—Maronite, Sunni, and Shiite; remove all Grade One civil servants; treat Muslim and Christian parliamentarians with equal scorn and disrespect; and somehow locate, apprehend, and neutralize the half-dozen neo-feudal leaders—and their biological and ideological scions—whose influence extends throughout and beyond the formal institutions that we’d just bomb to bits.”
“We do not yet understand the Logic of Lebanon. Your president must be a Maronite; but you can’t seem to find one that knows how to put his pants on properly! Your prime minister must be a Sunni, so long as he answers to a political boss thousands of miles away—one who doesn’t seem to be able to put his pants on properly either. And, then, not that we care about them, you have the Shiites controlling the Speakership of Parliament. Some closet pro-Western lawyer kow-towing to a Party of God that has already claimed all the goddamn virgins in the next life.”
“I mean,” Ibn-Jahshein hissed, scanning an organizational chart of the Lebanese state, prominent political parties, feudal families, local bosses, religious leaders, garden-variety thugs, ambassadors, other foreign participants, and pop-up nongovernmental organizations and consultancies. “Who the fuck do we overthrow around here?”
ISIS security czar Ibn al-Fashal then interjected, reassuring NOW’s Chief Caliphate Correspondent that ISIS was “playing for keeps.”
“You’ll have to excuse Ibn-Jahshein, he’s young and impressionable. ISIS understands that it must purport to preserve and protect Lebanon’s freedom, independence, and sovereignty—so long as those ideals unfold within the context of a pan-Islamic Caliphate stretching from Morocco to the Moon and Mars. ISIS, I should also emphasize, will continue to respect communal coexistence in Lebanon—so long as moderate Sunnis, Christians, Druze, Shiites, atheists, agnostics, and the two or three Jews you’ve trotted out to populate your reconstructed synagogue understand who runs the show.”
“We want to understand Beirut and Lebanon first and, to be frank, our focus groups have yielded some troubling results… Fine, we said, set up a Caliphate. How do we get the business up and running?”
“Well, as you can imagine, views were varied. Out of nowhere, the Greek Orthodox insisted on the financial portfolio. They claimed to care for the Caliphate’s ties with the West and non-Arab Islamic world and reminded us of the ‘old, grand’ Sunni-Orthodox convergence in major Arab metropolises. But closer examination revealed that they are hoping to leverage the Caliphate to recapture influence lost after the establishment of the Maronite-centric Lebanese Republic.”
“The Maronites—not that anybody asked them about a damned thing!—rejected dhimmitude and called for the restoration of their ancient, pre-Islamic, Phoenicianomardaite Empire of Jounieh and Jbeil. They then had the audacity to ask that we, in the alternative, empower a man from the Khazen, Sfeir, or Gemayel families as Co-Caliph of Christians!”
(Hands trembling, Ibn al-Fashal then poured himself a whiskey. “It’s OK,” he whispered. “Taqiyya.”)
“Then Walid Jumblatt waltzed in, jeans and all, handed us copies of the Bible and his old interview in Playboy, and suggested we ‘reconsider our approach to this place.’ Inno, What The Fasouliyah? Who asked you? Seriously. Anyway, after his dog pissed on us, he demanded two vizier positions for the Druze and one vizier position for a ‘friendly Christian’; in turn, he offered us ‘a carefully orchestrated fake submission to your Caliph, who [the Druze] will allow into the Chouf twice a year without sending him back in a wooden box.”
“As soon as we’d negotiated an arrangement with the Druze, the Shiites showed up—Hezbollah, Amal, and the two or three feudal families that have somehow convinced Western powers of their relevance as alternatives—asking for their own courts, tax regimes, inheritance rules, and local chiefs. Fine, we said, manage your own affairs… just leave the Sunnis to us.”
“When the Maronites heard about this, they revoked their previous offer, demanded that the Caliph recognize ‘Little Lebanon’ once again, and promptly trotted out thousands of mountaineers somehow equipped with the latest, shiniest American surplus weaponry. One of their Western-educated attorneys made a particularly sophisticated argument that the prospective enclave could allow Caliphate Citizens to ‘do their business just across the border’ and therefore avoid running afoul of the Quran and Hadith.”
“But then,” continued the ISIS czar, shaking his head, “this proposal caused great consternation among Lebanese Sunnis, who have sought to reprise their role as commercial stewards and protectors of the faith, within reasonable limits. They also have some thoughts on how to redevelop and reconstruct eastern Syria and Western Iraq—something having to do with a special-purpose company empowered with a private sector equivalent of eminent domain. So we said, khallas—”
“Pardon me,” interjected an ISIS apparatchik, poking his head inside the tent.
“The Turkoman communal chief is here to see you about his promised post.”
“Bookrah, el-thawra,” al-Fashal sighed. “Bookrah!”
Anthony Elghossain believes that, if Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, Lebanon is the graveyard of ideas. Tweet him @aelghossain
Promo for Iraqi TV series ‘The Superstitious State’
Clip from Palestinian comedy series ‘Watan ala Watar’
Lebanese show mocks suicide bombers
ISIS parody by Iraqi Kurds
Oh yeah…it might also be worth engaging in some self-reflection, in order to ask ourselves why our official foreign policy for the last 15 years has been to destroy all the secular governments of the Middle East.