The state vs. jokes

State Security bans Kifaya leader from holding seminar on jokes:

In a serious precedent that reveals the Egyptian regime’s tightening grip on freedom of expression against intellectuals, the security forces canceled a seminar held by Dr. Abdul Wahab Al Meseiri about “the analysis of jokes”.

Attendants at Saqiet Abdul Moneim el-Sawi [a cultural center], Zamalek, were informed that a seminar on “classifying and analyzing jokes” by the noted intellectual Dr. Abdul Wahab Al Meseiri, the general coordinator of Kifaya Movement, scheduled on Sunday evening, was cancelled.

The Saqiet officials said that the seminar was canceled because Dr. Abdul Wahab Al Meseiri felt ill; however, Dr. Al Meseiri, arrived suddenly and informed them that the state security phoned him on Saturday and told him that it, the state security service, canceled the seminar, but he insisted on coming so that every one knows that the reason for canceling the seminar isn’t his ill health but the state security police that controls every thing in Egypt.
Incidentally, al-Messiri is a linguist and his seminar would not have been, in all likelihood, that political. But since he can't talk about jokes in public, I'll reproduce below one I received by email this morning:

Hosni Mubarak goes to a primary school to talk to the kids. After his talk he offers question time.

One little boy puts up his hand and Mubarak asks, "what is your question, Ramy?"

Ramy says, "I have 4 questions:

First: Why have you been a president for 25 years?

Second: Why don't you have a vice-president?

Third: Why are your sons taking over the country economically and politically?

Fourth: Why is Egypt in a miserable economic state and you're not doing anything about it?"

Just at that moment, the bell rings for break. Mubarak informs the kids that they will continue after the break.

When they resume Mubarak says, "OK, where were we? Oh! That’s right...question time. Who has a question?"

A different little boy puts up his hand. Mubarak points him out and asks him what his name is.

"Tamer," the boy says.

"And what is your question, Tamer?"

"I have six questions:

First: Why have you been president for 25 years?

Second: Why don't you have a vice-president?

Third: Why are your sons taking over the country economically and politically?
Fourth: Why is Egypt in a miserable economic state and you're not doing anything about it?

Fifth: Why did the bell ring 20 minutes early?

SIXTH: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH RAMY!!!????"
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.