Category Archives: Humor

Kingdom of Delights: ‘Pokemon Go’ Declared a Heretic, Banned by Fatwa…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“The decree was issued by General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, Arab News reported Wednesday. The edict actually updates an existing ban on the Pokemon card and video games before they morphed into the mobile phone virtual reality game that has swept the world. The clerics issued the old fatwa, (No. 21,758), 16 years ago, declaring the original Japanese game a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the virtual reality version of the game is the same as the old one. The game has not been officially released regionally………….”

MuftiSaudi The Mufti vs. Pokemon Go

A Fatwa is a religious edict often issued by Muslim clerics, whether they are authorized or not, that aims at one of several things: (1) keeping the faithful, and the unfaithful, away from sin and abominations (not always the same); (2) making life a bit harder, making sure not everybody is having more fun than they should be decently having (excluding the princes and their minions); (3) making the faithful and the unfaithful aware that the particular cleric exists (not exactly: I Fatwa, ergo I am).

The Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Al Al Shaikh finally had his group issue a fatwa asserting the ban on Pokemon Go in the Kingdom of Fun and Delights. No news about the fate of Pokemon Go in Iran yet: the mullahs have not opined yet. On the other hand, why would they need Pokemon in Saudi Arabia when everybody is having so much fun already?

Meanwhile, in the ultimate Salafi Wahhabi realm, in the Caliphate of Islamic State, I hear they are looking for Pokemons to behead in public in Raqqa and Mosul. You see, Pokey is suspected of being a Shi’a, hence a heretic who is behead-able, whose throat is slit-able by Salafi standards.

FYI: Gambling, gaming, and other types of sin, are banned in Islam, except for princes who can travel to Europe and Las Vegas. Having a palace with walls also qualifies one for exemptions, without reducing their chances at deferred heavenly delights.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Beards and Zeitgeist: Leftist Beards, Zayed Beards, Islamist Fuzz, Lice and Orangutan……….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

It seems that the fate of the facial hair we call the “beard” is often tied to the political atmosphere of the period. Part of the Zeitgeist.
Decades ago, a young man with a beard in the Americas or in Europe was considered a radical, a suspected follower or admirer of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, (or even Dobie Gillis and Bob Denver). In fascist-ruled places like Chile, Argentina, and Greece they were thrown into prison or just disappeared on suspicion of radicalism or impiety or non-conformity. In some West European airports, bearded youth were often questioned more carefully. That was then, long before the world ever heard of Radical Islam.
At the same time, in Saudi Arabia any man who was ambitious grew a goatee beard (like the one Bob Denver and Dobie Gillis sported). From the king on down, they all flaunted the goatee (some Arabs called it saksooka). But that beard was not a radical political statement: just a show of solidarity with the eternal Saudi conformity rules.

FYI: I suspect that “goatee” drives from “goat“, which means these guys admired something about their goats. Maybe just the looks.

Then two events happened in 1979 that altered the history and shape of the beard for a generation to come:
First: the Afghan war erupted, with the Western secular governments and Arab Wahhabis aligned with the reactionary Afghan tribes against the God-less Communists. That war created a whole new generation of Islamic guerrillas. Al Qaeda started in Afghanistan, with Saudi money and Arab volunteers and American (Reagan) weapons. We can also say that it was the genesis of the Taliban and ISIS and Al Nusra and other cutthroat groups. The first Afghan war gave us the shaggy unruly lice-infested Wahhabi beard so loved by our Persian Gulf Salafists. One more complication: many Salafi elders, to show that they are among the top elite, tend to die their beards, often a bright red (Orangutan) color, as rusty as their brains. Maybe it is to appeal to their wives. A few let them let it go gray.
Second: the Iranian Revolution succeeded in February 1979. Mullahs with shaggy beards and heir followers with trimmed beards took over in Tehran, replacing the clean shaven men of the Shah, King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, etc, etc. An Iranian form of conformity has spread since then: all men of importance in the regime sport a short beard. Not the shaggy lice-inviting type the Salafis have, but a more trimmed grizzly beard. Long enough to be noticeable but too short to invite the lice or particles of food.

Other Muslim countries have their own variation of these two extremes of beards. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) many influential officials now sport the trimmed neat Zayed-Brothers beard. So named after the seven or dozen (or more) brothers who own Abu Dhabi and rule the UAE. In Egypt a beard is okay if it is the shaggy lice-inviting type, for it indicates the man is an ordinary Salafist who can be bought and not a Muslim Brother. In Syria, well, no matter what kind of beard you have in Syria, it can get you killed, or worse, by any group of armed Jihadis, liberators, invited foreign guests, un-invited foreign guests, cutthroats, or just plain regime forces. You can also get bombed by Syrians, Russians, Americans, British, or Israelis.
Who was it who said: “Hands Off Syria“?

So, in any struggle in our Middle East region today, even in my native Gulf region, you need to scrutinize the beard carefully. You also need to understand the nuances and differences between the various kinds of beards and if they are dyed and what color. Your career, fortune, and life could depend on it.

M Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Humor: Looking for Smiles in all the Wrong Places………

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced………… He found that in countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people. But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and—you guessed it—Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent…………..”

I have occasionally commented in my posts here on the humor or lack of it in the Middle East. Anyone who reads my posts on humor would know that the region between Waziristan through the Persian Gulf and all the way to Algiers suffers from an acute lack of humor. With a few possible pockets of ‘some’ limited humor in the region.

I have often comment about humorless Jordan. But the rest of the region is not far behind. Syria was never known for her humor, and no doubt it is much worse now. The same applies for the Lebanese who are great cooks but suck at telling jokes. Iranians and Israelis are no better. Even American Jews who move to settle in Israel manage to lose any sense of humor that they might have had. As for the Turks, they take the second prize (after Jordan): ask any Turk, male or female or transgender, about humor and they will most likely respond “what is that?

Which brings me to Egypt, the once jewel of Middle Eastern and African humor. It used to be the most, possibly the only, Arab country with a sense of humor. Not anymore. Egyptian humor was famous under Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it survived Anwar Sadat. Under Mubarak it weakened, perhaps a by-product of increased Wahhabi influence. Now under General Field Marshal Sisi humor seems to have vanished from Cairo, even as Wahhabism is going mainstream. Thousands of political prisoners, many disappearances and a rising campaign of terrorism can do that to a society.

As for my native region on the (Persian) Gulf. I recall when I first graduated from college in America and went home. I was used to people smiling at me or smiling back at me in public places in the USA. Even the dogs in the parks would try to lick my hand or hug my leg tightly and in a suspicious way, if you get what I mean.

Back home, whenever I stopped at a red light and looked at the car next to me all I saw was a frown, mostly a scowl and a silent growl. Whether I looked to my right or my left, I was always rewarded with a scowl. Later on I realized that it was just a result of insecurity and some suspicion, not hostility. Many people on my Gulf often feel that they would not be taken seriously or respected unless they scowled at others.
Nowadays it has gotten even more complicated. Other factors have entered the equation: by the time they figure out which tribe or religious sect you belong to, it is too late to smile.

Still, I never respected someone who answered my smile with a scowl anyway. But the scowls worked: I stopped smiling at strangers back home.

M Haider Ghuloum


Humor and Aguafiesta Violence from Early Islam to……

Al Azhar and the Academic Laws of Physics: Sharia Rules on Human Gases

Arab Media…..

WTF: Railway Link to Yemen, from Funny GCC to Asinine GCC…..


U.S. Elections: a Berliner, ein Wiener, un Escargot de Jardin, an English Muffin, and a Tart……

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KuwaitCox2        Me1 (2)

Decades ago President Kennedy (JFK) went to a defeated and divided Berlin and famously announced:
Ich bin ein Berliner.

Imagine a President Trump going to Vienna in 2017 and announcing:
Ich bin ein Wiener.

Imagine a President Ted Cruz going to Paris and announcing:
Je suis un escargot (de jardin).

Imagine a President Hillary Clinton going to London and announcing:
I am an English Muffin.

Or even:
Imagine a President Sarah Palin in, say, Birmingham, announcing that:
Yes, I am a raspberry Tart……….

Imagine if you can….
Yes, I almost can……….

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Hospitable Jordan: Risky Geography and Questionable Alliances…….

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“He added that “this is also happening in Afghanistan,” warning that if the Islamic State (IS) was degraded in these countries “Iran will come in to fill the gap,” according to MEE’s source. Jordan has backed Saudi Arabia in its long-running rivalry with Iran……….. In the congressional meeting, Abdullah said that Shia Muslims had been “lumped in” with the executions carried out that day. To purely kill Sunnis would have “looked bad domestically,” he said. He added, however, that it was unfortunate that Nimr had been included among those executed……………”

Jordan, an early child of Sykes-Picot, is in a bind. It is a small country with a divided population and few economic resources, like most other Arab countries. It is sandwiched between large unstable neighbors (Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia), as well as Israel/Palestine. Jordanians have had a long history of unfortunate and failed alliances within the Middle East.

It goes back to 1967, when the King of Jordan joined the Six Day War, apparently without being prepared for the consequences. As a result, the Jordanians handed the West Bank and East Jerusalem (including the Al Aqsa Mosque) to Israel with barely a fight, and within two days. The biggest and most important loss of Arab “property” in modern history. That disaster in itself is sufficient to make any nation lose its sense of humor, assuming it had any such sense before.

In 1980, the Jordanians repeated their mistake. They sided with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran. They did not fight directly, but King Hussein made occasional visits to the Front and fired some symbolic shots towards the Iranian lines. Not very kingly behavior, but it stopped once Saddam started losing that war. Another defeat ensued eight years later, but by then King Hussein did not get involved directly, a wise decision.

In 1990, the Jordanians sided again with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait. They lost big in that one economically, although they were not involved directly in a military sense.

Then came the Syrian civil-proxy-Jihadi war after 2011. The Jordanians helped the Syrian Jihadist “opposition” that was sponsored by the Saudis and some other Persian Gulf autocrats. They also at one point reportedly allowed the US and the Saudis to start training some new opposition groups near the Syrian border. But apparently that did not last long, perhaps it petered out.

In Yemen the Jordanians threw their support more directly behind the Saudi paid alliance that has been bombing Yemen’s cities and infrastructure for over a year. And blockading the country. A futile and hopeless war. But that is a low-risk venture for them: limited military involvement in a faraway country, with the cost paid by the Gulf princes and potentates.

A long record of betting on the losing side. No wonder the king is often welcome to address the U.S. Congress under Republicans. No wonder Jordanians are among the most humor-challenged in our humorless region. Now the humorless Jordanians have gotten more wary of involvement in foreign adventures of other sisterly and brotherly Arab countries, and wisely so. They especially stay away from disputes that are on their border, lest they spill across into their country (the example of the growing instability in Turkey provides a good lesson).

One good thing about Jordan: they (and Lebanon) do welcome many refugees, which is a good thing and almost a national industry now in Jordan. Unlike the richer Arab countries that have provoked and instigated many of these civil wars but refuse to accept the resulting refugees. In that sense of hospitality, they are more characteristically Arab than most of the rest.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Humor in Politics: Donald Trump of the Middle East?………

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“Saudi Arabia’s moves against Lebanon seem amateurish. Even if the Lebanese parties wanted to, they could do little to diminish the role of Hizbullah, which acts as a state within the state and also dominates the government. “Saudi Arabia sometimes acts with bombast and violence that makes it look like the Donald Trump of the Arab world,” says Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut. The result is likely to be that the Saudis lose influence in Lebanon, possibly to Iran………”

The Economist is often wrong about the Middle East, especially if it holds a view different from mine. This time it is quite wrong. Saudi Arabia is not quite a Trump of the Arab world: it is causing much more harm. Trump is not an extremist Wahhabi. Trump is not involved in bombing towns and cities in poor Yemen. Trump is not engaged in unleashing Jihadis terrorists in Iraq, Syria, and other places. Besides, Trump is a humorous person, highly entertaining, unlike Saudi Arabia and its potentates. No sir, it is a rather humorless place, and not only because of their current unsmiling foreign minister, the grim Mr. Al-Jubeir.

Besides, Saudi Arabia is not as much fun to watch as Trump is on the campaign trail. No Arab regime is. No Middle East regime is. In fact most Middle East comedians, not just princes and potentates and leaders, are not as much fun to watch and listen to. Even ex-president Hadi of Yemen issuing meaningless daily executive orders from a Riyadh hotel is not as funny.

Unfortunately, and in fairness, humor is fading away in most of the Middle East (and North Africa), from Iran through Turkey (especially Turkey) and into Egypt all the way to Morocco.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Humor and Aguafiesta Violence in History: from Early Islam to Trotsky in Mexico to Sisi……..

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“In Egypt, the attorney general for Bani Suwaif has ordered a high school Coptic student to be held for 15 days pending investigation. The teenager is accused of making anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook and other Internet media in a foreign language. In addition, security sources have divulged that the Coptic church and ‘security authorities’ have agreed to expel a Christian family of four from their village of Miyana in Ehnasia district. This came after Muslims accused the teenage son of the family of publishing comments harmful to Islam on Facebook. Sources added that a settlement meeting was held between the Church, high security officers, and some village Muslim families. As a result the Priest Butros G presented an official apology of the Coptic church for the insult published by the teenager against Islam and Muslims. The Coptic family had already abandoned its home and left their village since May 14………..”

This was a brief of the report from Egyptian media. Egypt used to be quite a cosmopolitan and tolerant country. All this started to change after the death of Nasser in 1970. Under Anwar Sadat, Islamist influence started to grow. Under Hosni Mubarak, Islamists grew stronger, Wahhabism started to creep into religious, political, and social conversation. Under Morsi, the first elected leader of Egypt, sectarian and confessional conflict broke out into the open. Salafis  were emboldened. Christians were attacked, Shi’as were lynched.

Under Al Sisi, Egypt is even more divided than ever. There is a mini-civil war in the country where both sides, Islamists and the military rulers, are ruthless: no quarter given and none expected. Parts of northern Sinai are almost attached to the Caliphate of ISIS rather than to Cairo. Other parts look like the hangout of the Hole in the Wall Gang. In villages from the Nile Delta to Upper Egypt (Al Saeed) there is a slow movement of religious displacement and confessional concentration. Egypt’s Copts are almost as grim these days as Egypt’s Islamists.

The once famous Egyptian sense of humor is moving dangerously close to that of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and Israel. Which means it is at the dangerous level of near extinction, what I would call pre-war or pre-civil war levels of humor. Germans, for example, lost any meager sense of humor they had quickly after 1933, not that they had much before that, not that they have much now. Attila and von Bismarck never laughed and seriously frowned upon humor. The Russians lost the remnant of their sense of humor right after Trotsky was expelled, and we all know why. Mexico, another place with a mostly humorless tradition, proved a fatal exile for Trotsky. The Russians still have to regain it.

Even the early Muslims, they come across as angry zealots. Which by definition they should have been. I believe the Prophet was almost the only one with any sense of humor among them. The rest, the Sahaba and later converts, come across as grim aguafiestas, which they mostly were. That state of grimness lasted until the Abbasids discovered the joys of humor, after the death of their founder Abul Abbas the Butcher.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

The Overlooked Faces of Real Saudi Reform………..

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Since the creation of the modern Saudi state some hundred years ago there have been three constants. These three constants have defined the country that the ruling family arrogantly renamed after themselves. They called it the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The three constants have been: (1) Wahhabism; (2) Absolute family rule and the subsequent kleptocracy; (3) Goateed kings and princes, from Abdulaziz through kings Saud, Faisal, Khaled, Fahd, Abdullah, and Salman, including several crown princes like Sultan and Nayef. The first two have been widely exported with plenty of Saudi money. Wahhabism now covers a vast area from Indonesia to Morocco, including AQAp and ISIS. It has noticeable influence in major European cities. This last expansion into Europe has led to the phenomenon of Islamophobia.

The last constant, the goatee beard (saksooka), did not take much hold outside the Arabian Peninsula. There are a few exceptions, for example Saad Hariri in Lebanon but he is the Saudi man in that country and sporting a goatee is like raising the Saudi flag. There might be one or two others in Lebanon with goatee beard, but I have not seen them nor heard of them. Inside Arabia, the goatee has ruled. Any prince worth his salt who aspired to reach the top of the hierarchy had to sport a goatee, preferably dyed jet black (Kiwi brand). Any minion who aspired to rise in the bureaucracy had to do the same.

Now King Salman has started his rule with a new face, literally. He has appointed a crown prince with no goatee beard, a first. He has appointed his son as deputy crown prince, also without a goatee, but with an Emirati style trimmed beard. It is worth noting that the crown prince apparently has no male heirs, comforting thought for his deputy.

That is the new future of the Arabian Peninsula, so long as the Al Saud rule it. That is the new face of Saudi reform, literally, and almost certainly the extent of it. No more goatee………….

(P.S: Now if they can get rid of the moustache, then they might have a slew of kings and princes who are as hairless as Francois Hollande or David Cameron or Angela Merkel).


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Al Azhar and the Academic Laws of Physics: Sharia Rules on Human Gases………

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They are mocking Islam and the Sharia. No, not the usual European bigots and the usual suspects among extremist American Islamophobic pop-intellectuals. This is a report on once-respected institution turned nearly ridiculous. Al Azhar, established almost a thousand years ago by the Fatimid Dynasty in Cairo.

Egyptian media are very obedient and respectful toward the regime and all its institutions these days, but other Arab media report an interesting alleged new development. The staid and usually respectable Al-Azhar has awarded a doctorate degree to a Shaikh F.S. (?) in Sharia and the Law. He received an overall A for his thesis which dealt with what he called “benign gases” that are emitted by humans (and other animals), also popularly known “fart”, or ضراط in Arabic (no insult intended to the Arab League and its meetings). His thesis dealt with these gases from a theological point of view. He argued that there are certain rules in the Shari’a that specify carefully the smells of the gases that would nullify the pre-prayer ablutions, as well as the number of seconds that the “fart” lasts in which case it is considered nullifying for pre-prayer ablutions.

Shaikh F.S. (you figure the name out) specified the smells (of emitted human gases) that would nullify pre-prayer ablutions as follows: farts that have the flavor/smell of eggs, onions, Pastrami, or cabbage. Every other emitted gas is considered benign gas, unless the emission lasts more than 4 seconds and the sound it makes is higher/louder than 30 decibels.

I thought you might want to know. That the once venerable Al Azhar is trying to keep up, encouraging the use of the laws of physics into the Sharia………..

If all this is in fact true…………

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Arab Media Outlets: a Rainbow from the Mad to the Angry to the AIPAC to the Smart…….

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New Arab media sprout almost every day. Both online and offline. I am only listing some with the word “Arab” in them. Otherwise there are more, many many more. Briefly, here are some that exist now, some that will exist, some that should exist, and some that should not exist:

Al-Quds Al-Arabi (=Arab Jerusalem):London-based. Used to be Qatari-funded but pro-Palestinian. Now totally Qatari-owned and nicely sectarian.
New Arab: sounds like Qatari or Emirati-funded propaganda website. I would guess more Qatari, tentatively.
Free Arabs: Not really ‘free’, me thinks. U.S. based, a bit cutesy. Seems more like it should be renamed AIPAC Arab or some other pro-Likud or Mujahideen Khalq or Neoconservative funded group.

AlArabiya: owned by an in-law of the Saudi royal family. Has close ties with Asharq Alawsat which is owned by Saudi King Salman.
AlArab:news network owned by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (he sued Forbes for underestimating his wealth). Now looking for a home base after being kicked out of Bahrain on its first and last day of broadcasting.
Angry Arab: I don’t know who the hell funds this one. Almost certainly self-funded from the sale of non-Israeli hummus.
Mad Arab: partly owned by Alfred E. Neuman and his wife.
Arab Garlic: partly owned by The Onion but based in Gilroy, California.
Humorless Arab: you’d think it is a Jordanian outlet, but t goes deeper than tat……
Pissed off Arab: just about anybody between Bahrain and Casablanca who is not a ruler, relative of a ruler, or minion of a ruler.
Stoned Arab: almost certainly headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dumb Arab: probably based and operated by the League of Arab Nations (Arab League).
Smart or Thinking Arab: in exile, in prison, dead, or ruling the rest of them.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter