20 Sept 2014

When the aliens met ISIS (because odds are)

It’s a hot summer evening in the Iraqi desert, the sun had finally disappeared behind the hills in the distance. Two Islamic State recruits are keeping guard on a remote outpost. They had finished their dinner and are sipping their sweet dark tea in silence. Abu Abdullah al-Inglizi is a convert from Birmingham and his companion is Abu Bakr al-Shishani, an engineering student from Chechnya who had quit his studies to fight for the Caliph. Abu Abdullah speaks only English, while Abu Bakr knows few Arabic phrases and even fewer English ones.

Abu Abdullah suddenly prods his companion and points to the sky. A disc-shaped object appears to be hovering in the distance, flashing its lights directly beneath. (It’s best not to stray too much from cinematic convention.) The hovering object is unlike any helicopter they had seen. They watch in awe as the object comes closer and begins its descent to the ground.

On board, Zborg (pronounced Borg) and his assistant Xphilo (pronounced Xphilo) are adjusting the levers as they are about to conclude their long journey to Earth from their home planet. The two are on an expedition to Earth, and they have come well prepared after years of studying about Earth and learning English from the broadcasts that have travelled light-years through space.

By the time Zborg and Xphilo open the spaceship door, the two ISIS recruits are waiting for them outside with their guns pointing towards the peaceful visitors. Zborg is undaunted and steps forward greeting them in English ‘How you doin'?’ (The visiting aliens had unfortunately learned English from watching ‘Friends’, it’s the most recent show they got).

The ISIS pair are still too surprised to speak. Zborg and Xphilo examine their traditional clothes, going from their turbans to their robes and flip-flops. Zborg turns to Xphilo ‘oh no, we made a mistake and landed in the past, look what they’re wearing!’ Xphilo is perplexed. ‘I don’t see how that could have happened’.

Encouraged by hearing his native language, Abu Abdullah comes closer, still pointing his rifle at the visitors. ‘Who are you? What are you? Are you Shiites?’

Zborg: ‘No, we are from another planet. What are Shiites? They’re not like you?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘No! We are Sunnnis!’

Xphilo: ‘Ah, I have read about you. You cultivated science and philosophy and built those palaces with beautiful gardens?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Er, that was a long time ago, our priorities have changed.’

Zborg: ‘What year is this here?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘What do you mean what year? Are you an idiot? It’s 1435.’

Xphilo: ‘1435? So you haven’t even discovered America?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Of course we have, who do you think made this rifle? You’re thinking of the moushreeken calendar, it’s 2014 for them.’

Zborg: ‘So why are you dressed like that? Our books say this is not how people dress now.’

Abu Abdullah: ‘We’re changing the rules, this is how people must dress now. Are you two Muslims?’

Xphilo: ‘No, we don’t have your religions on our planet.’

Abu Abdullah: ‘You must tell me what you are, I have to fill it in this form here to know what to do with you. If you’re Sunnis you’re safe. If you’re mushreekeen you must pay a tax. If you’re pagans, we must behead you.’

Zborg: ‘But we don’t have heads!’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Yeah, that could be a problem. Let me think about it.’

At this stage, Abu Bakr interjects, he had been following for some time but can’t understand what’s being said. ‘What is? What is?’ he asks Abu Abdullah.

The latter takes out his iPhone and types something in Google Translate, as he often has in order to communicate with the other one. He types ‘they are aliens, what should we do with them?’ and translates it. Abu Bakr reads intently in his language: ‘How do you do the strange one?’ And looks at Abu Abdullah, completely baffled.

Xphilo: ‘What’s the problem, can’t you communicate?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘That’s none of your business. I have to establish what your religion is.’

Zborg: ‘Maybe if you explained to us the differences we can choose?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Well, the best one is being Sunni. Then there’s the Shiites who must be fought.’

Zborg: ‘But what are the differences?’

Sadly for everyone involved, Abu Abdullah’s career as a drug-dealer turned Muslim turned ISIS fighter didn’t prepare him for the complexities of a theological discussion with visiting aliens. Then he remembers his copy of Islam for Dummies which he keeps with him precisely for such emergencies. He takes it out and starts flipping through the pages.

Xphilo: ‘Is that your religious book?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Eh, no, kind of.’

Xphilo: ‘Is it or it not?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘No, that one is in Arabic and I don’t speak Arabic’.

Xphilo: ‘So how did you learn about this religion?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘I watched some videos online, and a couple of guys I met back home taught me some stuff.’

Xphilo: ‘And that was enough for you?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Are you questioning my faith?’

Xphilo: ‘God forbid. It’s just doesn’t seem that you know it very well.’

Abu Abdullah: ‘I thought you didn’t have a religion’.

Xphilo: ‘It’s just an expression, we learned it from sitcoms.’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Yeah I used to watch those, but not anymore. It’s forbidden, it’s bad for you. Which ones do you like?’

Xphilo: ‘We watched Friends and Seinfeld’.

Abu Abdullah: ‘Those are really old man. You should check out The Big Bang Theory.’

Zborg: ‘Ah, we’re interested in the Big Bang Theory, we heard about it. You know Sagan, Hawking, Friedmann.’

Abu Abdullah: ‘No man, what are talking about? It’s Leonard and Sheldon, and that hot chick, she’s so hot, astaghfirullah.’

Zborg: ‘Listen, why don’t you take us to your leader?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘Ah, the Caliph. The greatest ruler on Earth. But we can’t take you there, we don’t know where he is.’

Zborg: ‘The greatest ruler on Earth and you don’t even know where he is? Isn’t there like a palace and a court, all of that?’

Abu Abdullah: ‘No, it’s not like that, it’s different. You wouldn’t understand.’

Zborg: ‘Listen, I think we made a mistake. Maybe you’re not ready for us. We’ll come back in a hundred years’.

Abu Abdullah: ‘Ok, you remind me of my Aunt Jennie, so I’m going to let you go’.

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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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