Monday, January 08, 2007

Moroccan government bans laughing, smirking

Moroccan journalists frequently get in trouble, but it's usually for drawing cartoons or suggesting that occupied Western Sahara isn't a paradise under Moroccan rule. The editors of Nichane, a Moroccan magazine, must have been surprised, then, when they were sued by the government for publishing jokes everyone knows.

The Nichane controversy has been going on for about a month, so here's the short version. Tel Quel, a Moroccan magazine that's written in French and has previously gotten in trouble for suggesting that Sahrawis in Tindouf aren't hostages, decided to launch an Arabic magazine so they could communicate with Arabic-speaking Moroccans.

Nichane published an issue about Moroccan jokes. It enraged Moroccan conservatives and Islamists, and not just because the cover is terrifying. For me, the best part of the imbroglio has been the jokes that have come out of it, which are apparently in wide circulation in Morocco. Here are some pick-up lines in Tel Quel. They're charming in a fuzzy translation way.
  • Hey girl, I want to bring your mother on the hajj
  • Girls who wear djellabas look so traditional but are also smart and sexy.
I'm trying the last one out when I get back to school. Anyway, the Moroccan government responded harshly, and now a Nichane journalist and an editor are on trial for attacking Islam with jokes they didn't even make up.

The verdict's due next Monday. I hope you'll sign this petition supporting Nichane and freedom of the press in Morocco. As I see it, signing this position means helping Moroccans like the writers at Tel Quel and Nichane, people who seems devoted to the truth (including the truth about the Western Sahara). Nichane translates to "as it is" in English, and if this is how things are in Morocco, the struggle for Western Saharan independence will be that much harder.

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