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Jokes in Defense of Freedom!

Moroccan journalists Driss Ksikes, editor of the magazine Nichane, and Sanaa Elaji, author of the controversial article “Jokes: How Moroccans Laugh about Sex, Religion and Politics,” go on trial January 8 for “injuring Islam, the respect due His Majesty the King, and common decency.” I have already written about this here, and the offending jokes are here in English translation. In solidarity with Nichane’s original intent, and in homage to the unique art form that is the Moroccan joke, allow me to post a few jokes of my own below.

These are authentic jokes told to me by real Moroccans, in uncontrived circumstances. No one forced them or paid them to tell these jokes. They were unaware that their jokes would one day be the subject of a legal case. There are hundreds, if not thousands more jokes like these, in the same place these came from, namely the Moroccan popular imagination. I encourage my readers to join me in collecting their jokes here in the comments, in e-mails to me, or on their own blogs (send me the links!) before the combined force of religious extremism and the Moroccan State send them the way of the passenger pigeon.

Please note, if your grandmother is in the room wearing a hejab, send her away before reading any further! For whatever reason, all of the jokes below highlight the same part of our anatomy, one that is common to men and women and usually hidden. And if Bill Clinton is offended by his appearance in one of these jokes, let him sue me!

— • —

A Japanese, an American and a Moroccan were all together in prison. One day the warden gave them each a quarter. He said, “Whoever makes something interesting out of this will be set free.” The Japanese shaved the quarter into tiny slivers and crafted a watch that really worked. When the warden saw that, he was impressed and let the man go. The American showed the warden two quarters where once he had one. He’d made a copy of the original and doubled his wealth. The warden was impressed and let him go. The Moroccan had nothing to show, not even the quarter he had originally. When the warden asked him why that was, he said, “I gave it to the American in exchange for sex.”

Bill Clinton and Hassan II agreed to exchange visits. When Hassan II went to Washington, Clinton wanted to impress him with the latest American technology, so he installed a special toilet in Hassan II’s private suite. When Hassan II flushed it, a robotoic hand came out of the bowl to wash him and dry him. Hassan II returned to Morocco determined to show that his people could accomplish the same thing. When Clinton came to visit, Hassan II had one of his servants, traditionally African slaves, crouch under Clinton’s toilet. When Clinton flushed, the man’s hand came out of the bowl to wipe and dry him. Seeing this, Clinton was so excited that he went directly to Hassan II. “We thought we were the technology leaders, but you’ve had this device a lot longer than we have. That hand’s been used so much, it’s turned black!”

A soldier wanted to get a medical leave, which is nearly impossible in the Moroccan Army. After thinking it over, he rolled up a 200 dirham note—the largest denomination available, and the only one that is blue—inserted it into his rectum, and went to the doctor complaining of intestinal problems that made it impossible for him to eat. The doctor told him to take down his pants, and examined his rectum with a flashlight. He saw something inside. When he took it out, he saw that it was a 200 dirham note. He pocketed the money and said, “I’ve removed the obstruction. What you need now is some rest. I’ll give you a two-week leave.” When the soldier told his friend about this, his friend was jealous and decided to try it himself. Only he was stingy, so he used only 20 dirhams. The doctor examined his rectum with a flashlight, and found an obstruction as before. When he took it out and saw that it was only 20 dirhams, he put it back where he had found it. He told the soldier, “I’m sorry, I can’t do anything. It’s too soon. You’ll need to come back once it’s turned blue.”

— • —

If you agree that putting journalists on trial for telling jokes is outrageous, please consider signing the online petition if you haven’t already. (They ask for your e-mail, but they won’t publish it). Or you can leave a supportive comment on Larbi’s blog. This post has set the record for the total number of comments ever in the history of the Moroccan blogosphere (415 as I write this). Larbi understands English, so he will know what you’re saying even though most of the comments are in French. It will also be good for his readers to practice their English a little! Let them know that news of this is spreading.


Comment from Liosliath
Time: January 7, 2007, 20:29

OK, here’s the Marrakchi joke :

Three ants were walking. The first ant said “I’m in front!” The second ant said “I’m in the middle!” The third ant said “I’m in front!” How was this possible?

Answer : The third ant was LYING! [insert raucous Marrakchi laughing]

They are also known for saying, “Yes, I saw the red light, but it was not THAT red yet.”

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 7, 2007, 20:34

@Liosliath — You’ve set the speed record here so far, 12 minutes!

I thought we needed a diversion after Saddam. He’s dead, dammit! Let’s move on!

Comment from moul
Time: January 7, 2007, 21:13

Nice jokes. some of theme i didn’t know. Seems like it’s a fest of “putting in jail jokes”. There’s one:
Hassan II when dead went to heaven where he met Lady Diana. They sympathised and more. When they were flirting Diana touched his pants and was amazed to not find any penis. She asks him:
Where’s your penis, majesty?
H2: Oh Mylady, moroccan people are still sitting on it!!

Comment from adel
Time: January 8, 2007, 02:44

A lawyer dies and goes to Heaven.

– “There must be some mistake” the lawyer argues “I’m too young to die. I’m only fifty five”

– “Fifty five?” says *Saint Peter* “No, according to out calculations, you’re eighty two.”

– “How’s you get that?” the lawyer asks.

– “We added up your time sheets.”

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 8, 2007, 03:11

If we’re doing St. Peter jokes, here’s one Doga sent me:

A famous journalist and model Christian has just died, and he arrives before St. Peter. He notices, installed behind the Keeper of the Gate, a dozen clocks on which he sees the names Jacques Chirac, Benedict VI…. Curious by nature, he doesn’t hesitate to ask, “What is the purpose of these amazing clocks?”

St. Peter is happy to explain, “These are the Clocks of Life for all the important people in the world. Each time one of them makes an idiotic remark, his clock jumps ahead one hour.”

The visitor remarks, “Chirac, Olmert, Blair, Ahmadinejad, the Pope… even Bill Gates! But where is the one for George W. Bush, who is certainly one of the most important people on earth?”

A little embarassed, St. Peter replies, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve installed it in my office as a fan!”

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 8, 2007, 03:19

Here’s the other joke Doga sent me:

Following the capture of Saddam, Bush visits his cell and they have a talk. Saddam says that his sons love American movies, especially Star Wars. There are white people, black people, even extraterrestrials, but no Arabs. Saddam asks Bush why that might be, and Bush answers, “Because Star Wars is a film that takes place in the future.”

Comment from Mohamed
Time: January 8, 2007, 03:43

Eatbees …
Nous vivons , au Maroc, dans une société qui respecte les croyances et les valeurs. L’affaire de Nichane démontre l’irresponsabilité et l’incompétence de journalistes qui ne maîtrise pas l’environnement réglementaire de leur profession d’une part ey le manquede professionnalisme d’autre part, on ne s’improvise pas journalitse!!
La liberté d’expression ne signifie guère anarchie
Tiens, cherches un méd et étaler n’importe quoi sur la voie public. un citoyen US ou Européen ne peut pas trouver un support pour publier une blague sur l’holocauste, un américain n’a pas le droit de commercer ou prendre un avion vers Cuba (sauf pour les 5 courageux!) !!!!
la liberté s’exerce dans un espace délimité par des règles minimales à respecter par tous citoyens. Chez nous, au Maroc, Les limites sont Allah (Dieu), Al Watan (Patrie) et Al Malik (Roi).
Sanaa et Driss ont joué hors jeu, ils doivent assumer la responsabilité de leur actes pour démontrer qu’ils ont appris une leçon de cette affaire !

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 8, 2007, 04:53

@Mohamed — I, too, respect Moroccan beliefs and values, but they should come from within, not from a rulebook. I know how you feel about this, because I’ve seen your comments on Larbi’s blog, and I respect the sincerity of your opinion! I only ask you to consider that the laws of society aren’t fixed in stone, and even the laws of God must be filtered through the hearts of men.

Maybe Driss and Sanaa need to pay the price, as you say, to demonstrate that these laws are unjust. I hope not, but that’s the principle of civil disobedience. The situation forces us to ask, do we really want to send people to prison for telling jokes? Worse, is that really the problem here? Or is it simply an excuse for the State to crack down on a magazine that has been critical in the past? You’re right to say that there are limits in any society, but arbitrary limits are wrong, and how can “injury to Islam or the King” be anything but arbritrary? How do we even know where the line is? If I criticize M6 for the clothes he wears, have I crossed the line? I honestly don’t know, and that’s the problem. These laws give the Moroccan State the power to throw people in jail using a standard that shifts from one situation to the next. I’m not defending the jokes themselves, but the right of Moroccans to live under laws that are clear and the same for everyone.

You’re an admirer of Nass el Ghiwane, and you feature them on your blog. Weren’t they, in their time, accused of going too far? Keep that in mind as an example of how standards can change.

Comment from Kenza
Time: January 8, 2007, 15:36

hi eatbees
I missed your blog and your analysis :)
I see that I’ve missed so much interesting subjects around here … mais je vais me rattraper.

as for the jokes, I think that any moroccan can tell you that theses jokes are softies when compared with others we all heard, knew or once told. the problem remains (as for sooooo many things in morocco) that these ones are put public, written, assumed… that is the thing that shocks… they left the place they were supposed to keep …

some people can call that hypocrisy, as for me I think it is much more complexe than that, it is a very complexe way of being what we are supposed to be as well as being ourselves, a way of combining two opossites without contradicting any, some call it schizophrenia :) but hey aren’t we the supposed modern traditionnel coutry everybody is talking about :)))

That is just my attempt to put asmile on that very sad case

have a nice day

Comment from Mohamed
Time: January 8, 2007, 16:11

Eatbees …
Ne croyez pas que je souhaite que les deux journalistes soient emprisonnés.
Ce qui me dérange, c’est qu’ils se sont comportés comme des amateurs!
il ne faut pas rêver, les libertés, au maroc, sont contrôlés !

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 8, 2007, 17:10

@Kenza—Did you see my post on Schizophrenic Morocco? This was a term Larbi used in a comment to me, and I picked up on it to write this post. You could also see Nation of Gigolos for another version of Morocco divided against itself.

“that is the thing that shocks… [the jokes] left the place they were supposed to keep … some people can call that hypocrisy, as for me I think it is much more complexe than that, it is a very complexe way of being…”—I think this is what makes Morocco so exciting today and challenging, because it is a laboratory of change! Young people chat on the internet, watch sexy videos, experiment with a Western lifestyle (if they can afford it) and at the same time, they kiss their mother’s hand, they pretend never to have touched a cigarette or a girl… :)

I think these are the growing pains of a modern society, which raises the question, how can we keep our identity, our traditions, with this flood of new influences? I think all societies go through this. Walking the line is never easy, and sometimes there are missteps….

@Mohamed — I think this answers you too. In their own words, Driss and Sanaa misjudged the situation, and never expected this to be the scandal it has become. But I’m not sure that makes them amateurs. We are all amateurs in this new world, because we really don’t know where the lines are any more—they change from day to day. Morocco is certainly more open today than it was a few years ago. I could feel the difference even in the time I was there (2003-2006). And it will be more open tomorrow. Our friends went a little too fast, and angered the wrong people… it’s a mistake anyone can make. I hope the State will accept their apology and we can move on.

Comment from Mohamed
Time: January 8, 2007, 17:23

C’est sérieux Eatbees…
Je n’ai pas l’impression que L’Etat va faire demi tour … ils risquent vraiment gros!
le jugement sera prononcé dans une semaine

Comment from Kenza
Time: January 8, 2007, 17:36

eatbees: I told you I ve missed many excellent posts while exiling myslef form the net :)

no seriously I understand exactly what you think about schizophrenic morocco. You are looking at it with that fascinated eye of yours, just because you are outside of it. Yes it might be fascinating but it is tiring, frustrating and somehow irritating.

I’ve learnt lately that in psychology they have an explaination for that, there are some people who can live quiet easily with contradictions and others who just can’t stand it. the majority of moroccans seem to can :). how can we become one or another type I just don’t know, maybe it is in our genes or maybe it is the environment we lived in.

but the most important to know is that if you can’t , it will be hard for you to live in morocco (other than as a tourist of course)

sometimes I see moroccans as a nation searching for itself but nor looking at the right direction, we want to be this ideal image we have of what is good, beautiful, acceptable seen through others’ eyes… but we forget to see what we really are because nobody else that us is like that and nobody is proclaiming that what is the real us is good, beautiful or acceptable… so we end up trying to show that we are modern like the west, religious like the east and so on …

sorry I dont even know where my thoughts are leading me :)

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