Nothing in Lebanon suggests that better days are ahead. The new caliphate and caliph are both matters of confusion and concern to many. Even those who had never before thought about politics are now gravely concerned. 

“It’s the era of the caliphate,” Mohammed, a barber, tells me. Mohammed has never given much consideration to politics, and, in his words, is “a man on the edge of life. All I care about is working and enjoying.” Yet, Mohammed and others like him have developed an interest in politics and security news. “I have five breaking-news applications on my phone. The Islamic State [IS] is at the borders — they have a bunch of our soldiers and already control part of Lebanon. They are a de facto power.”

Many Lebanese are still unable to differentiate between the extremist groups fighting in Syria. “They are all ‘Daesh,'” says a customer at Mohammed’s barber shop, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “They slaughter people and want to make people look like them.” The customer gives Mohammed a sarcastic smile, adding, “If they ruled our friend’s work, they [would] want people to grow beards and hair.” Everyone at the salon laughed, quite furiously.[…]