Ever since I read Isaac Asimov's short-story Jokester about the origins of jokes, I've always harbored an obscurely academic fascination with the circumstances surrounding jokes. This article will try to discuss how jokes against various ethnic/sectarain denominations have developed and evolved through the course of years.
The major targets in an Iraqi joke are (arranged by popularity):
1. Kurds (Before I was born)
2. Dulaymis (1999 - present)
3. Shroogis (60s - present)
4. Maslawis (??)
5. Nassiriya (??)
6. Sectarain (??? but heightned after 2006)
Let us start with sectarain jokes since that is the hot stuff nowadays, first, the sectarain jokes are not popular due to the way Iraqi society is made up, to even mention sects was usually an insult frowned upon in many circles, and it was not until post-US invasion that the words 'Sunni' and 'Shiite' have slipped out of the Pandora's Box that is Iraq unto the common everyday kitchen be it in Iraq or the Middle East. But why are sectarain jokes offensive and the widespread jokes against Kurds not? That is not to say that jokes against Kurds are not offensive, but I think that it's because sectarain jokes directly touch religion, always a bad subject to make fun of in the Middle East. In Shi'ism for example, it is commendable to insult, curse or make fun of certain Islamic figures who are, hey presto, lauded as the highest of the high in Sunni Islam. This paradox renders many jokes into a hostile light unparralleled by a joke making fun of Kurds, Maslawis, or Dulayms which simply mock fallible human traits like slowness or cheapness, as those recipients would usually grin sociably when said jokes are being made. Sectarain jokes do not make fun of those traits, and since they are only circulated in closed circles, they are usually very offensive and unfunny.
What often annoys me is that Western audiences think that the Middle Eastern society is actually Islamic in look and in spirit, this is a far cry from the truth, Middle Eastern societies are largely hypocritical in nature. The majority do not follow religious lines of living but they respect it in a nominal way, it's more like: 'Yes let's do the sexy dance, but let's keep it a secret.' I have heard many jokes against Allah and Islam and when they are said they are often met with great joy. An anti-Shiite joke targeting religious figures is hugely offensive in Sunni communities as well, but that doesn't mean they don't exist - After the 1991 Shiite revolution, the effective Baathist propaganda began releasing anti-Shiite jokes that directly insult highly venerated figures in both Sunni and Shiite traditions, these jokes have the qualities of a bully, not particularly clever and downright mean and cruel, for example this sums up a perfectly Baathist-style joke:
"Allah and Mohammed were playing marbles, and then Ali came, the two immediately screamed: Ahoooooo, here comes the cheater!"
Here's another one that's even more mean:
"A Sunni man married a Shiite woman, they agreed that he names the girls and she names the boys, they had three sons and sure enough she named them Ali, Hasan and Hussein. When the fourth child was a girl the man named her 'Bitch', when asked why, he said: 'So I can say: O Brothers of the Bitch! (Ya Khawat il Ka7ba, a popular Iraqi curseword.)"
I have never, ever heard of a joke against Sunnis from any of my friends, such is the nature of our society. The only anti-Sunni jokes are know I have listened to from the Internet, here is one by Hassan Shahata, an Egyptian Azhar scholar who converted to Shi'ism. It tells a great deal that this joke was actually said in a mosque:
"On Judgement day, Abu Bakr and Omar were sentenced to hell as expected, but they went to the Prophet Mohammed who, ever the merciful, intercessed with Allah and Allah forgave them for urusping Ali's right and granted them into Paradise. After a while, Abu Bakr asked Omar: "I wonder what happened to our friends Khalid, al-Mughieera, and Sa'ad, what do you say if we go and take a look?", so Omar accepted, upon entering Hell, an Angel on guard said that Ali is the guardian of the gate and they must request a pass from him, so they went and Ali gave them the pass. The two saw and conversed with their friends and after a while got bored and wanted to leave, but to this Imam Ali said: 'Man, where do you think you're going? You have entered, but whoever said that you are going to leave?' "
The joke is not even funny, but it was met by uproarious laughter by the Shiites in the Qum mosque , as it basically supports all the credentials of their faith.
The jokes also can target Abu Haneefa, the most important Sunni shrine in Baghdad (in my old area Adhamiya), Shiites have a tradition of spitting on the direction of the grave when they pass him by, and they sometimes call him Abu Haneecha (a very rude Iraqi swearword, meaning fuck him)Here's an offline message I got from a Shiite friend in Najaf, it's in Arabic verse so it may not be :
'Abu Haneefa (May Allah be pleased with him) once said: O Hear ye, A man comes who hate me, and everyday he curses me, he shows you the Shidah (difficulty), and dump your bodies in Saddah, His eyes are sood (black), and he wears a tracksuit, brave and hard to enjira'a (swallow), his name is Abu Diraa, the signs of this warta (catastrophe), the emergence of a batta (car used by gunmen often, a Toyota Corona).
Here is a joke circa 2004 that involves Shiites, Sunnis and Americans:
"An American soldier was observing the Mahdi Army beating up people (this was when they weren't killing anybody yet) on the street, they watched as they cornered a man and was about to beat the shit out of him when he said: 'O by Ali's name let me go', on hearing this, the Mahdi folks let him go, the soldier thought this was a cultural Iraqi phrase and memorized it as it may come in handy. the next day he was transferred to Falluja, and wouldn't you know it, 30 minutes later he was at the mercy of the Mujahideen (insurgency), remembering the phrase, he said: 'O by Ali's name, let me go!', the Mujahideen looked at each other and said: 'Holy Cow! Not only is he an American infidel, but he's also a Shiite! BOOM BOOM BOOM."
Kurds: Kurds have always been picked upon, I do not know the political or social factors that led to this becuase it is so far back, before the Ba'ath regime came to existence.
1. They're not particularly exclusive to Iraqis, as Kurdish jokes delight comes from a humanly universal fact: stupidity.
2. It also use the word 'Kaka' a lot, which means 'brother' in Kurdish.
Guy: Kaka, Do you like bananas?
Kurd: Kaka, banana is delicious, but it has a very big seed.
A Kurd asked the hand of a girl, the father asked him: Do you smoke? He said: No, but sometimes when I get drunk with a couple of whores I smoke a little weed.
Here's how a moron joke is imported from another culture:
A Kurd saw a Marlboro ad and was so affected that he bought a horse
Some use present day movements to liven up an otherwise stale joke, such as:
How did Ansar al-Islam catch the pornographic film at the Kurdish guy's collection? He had put it in the sports section marked Brazil 1 - Sulaymaniya 5
Most of the Kurdish jokes today have developed to focus on the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, partly because he himself have encouraged the notion by launching a self-mocking array of jokes whenever possible.
Here's a famous poem said by Jalal Talabani during an interview:
We got no cane, no mats, and no bardi
On top of all that, the president is Kurdi
Dulayms: Since 2000, Dulaymis replaced Kurds as the Iraqi comedian's favorite slowhead, Dulaym is one of the most important Sunni tribes in Iraq (it's also the tribe of Adnan al-Dulaymi, Sunni bloc head), there are various reasons as to why they were the target of soooo many jokes, but it is of little doubt that the Ba'ath regime was the prime instigator of these jokes, I once had a friend who was the son of a military intelligence member, and he was such a funny and charismatic personality that he could tell you joke after joke and you won't feel tired, one thing he said one day caught my attention: 'Man, we sell these jokes', the Ba'ath regime has a competent propaganda machine that steered something whenver they feel like it - the jokes were embraced by all Iraqis: Sunnis and Shiites at that time. Some say that the leader of the Dulaym tribes once rejected Saddam's cigar at a meeting, saying: This is not the time to smoke, and others mention the little known Dulaym revolution against Saddam which was started because of the butchery of a certain important Dulaymi tribesman by Saddam's henchmen (but that incident dates a little farther than 2000).
Dulaymi jokes are of all the same qualities as Kurdish jokes, stupidity and slowness is emphasised to a great degree - all Dulayms back then in our classroom were subject to all sorts of insults....
A Dulaymi said to his father: O father, I want her to be white and tall...his father brought him a 20-foot fridge.
Dulayms are playing chess, whenever a soldier dies they hold a 3-day mourning ritual.
Dulayms were playing chess, one said: Hey, I just killed your elephant...the other went out and then returned shortly saying proudly: And I poisoned all your cattle!
A Dulaym was asked by the teacher: Who was the prophet that spoke to animals? Dulaymi said: Prophet Tarazan (PBUH).
Why did the Kurds and Dulayms become extinct? Too many jokes.
Maslawis: Maslawis are people who hail from Mosul, they have a very unique accent that is closer to Syrian than Iraqi, and the jokes that target Maslawis are the same as, surprise, the ones targeting the Scots and Jews. CHEAP. I am a half-Maslawi, and I can tell you that Maslawis are actually pretty generous, the reasons behind this are also as ancient as the ones behind the Kurds.
How did the American soldier from his Apache know this house was a Maslawi's? He saw a handkerchief on the clothesline.
Why don't Maslawis go to hospitals? The door says 'PUSH'. (PUSH is the same word as PAY in Arabic.)
A Maslawi's father died. The ad ran: Father Dead, Car for Sale.
3. Shroogis: Shroogi literally means 'a person from the East', it distinctly refers to people coming from the southe-eastern governorate of Ammarah, when they started to drive in huge numbers in Baghdad during the 1960s, and currently they reside at Sadr City- but generally this refers to everyone who hails from the southern governorates, jokes targeting Shroogs naturally focus on their illiteracy, dirtiness and ignorance.
A Shroog took a urine analysis. The nurse said: Your urine is sugary, he said: and your shit is honey.
A Shroogi shepherd got married,after being silent for a while on the bed with his wife he decided to break the ice and said: "You wouldn't know about any good sheep around here, would you?"
After a while the Shroogi wanted to flirt with her again...so he said: 'Do you see the moon?'
She said yeah, he said 'The smell of your armpits reach over there...'
A Shroogi called the police, angrily he mouthed: God Damn it, they stole the fuckin' steering wheel and dashboard of my car!!!! Five minutes later, he called again: Sorry guys, I was at the backseat.
4. Nassiriya: Nassiriya jokes are some of my favorites because they deal with the mischievious malignance of Nassiriay people, technically they are also Shroogis but all their jokes are different.
A Nassiriyan became the police officer, he changed the police code from 911 to 0983109343872321234.
A Nassiriyan Imam went to the institute for blind men, his lecture was 'The Joy of Sight.'
Three Nassiriyans agreed to rob a bank, the first to knock out the guards, the second to unlock the safe and the third to call the police.
A Nassiriyan went to see a movie, he found only one guy in the whole hall, he sat behind him and would say every once in a while: 'Please, sir, your head, I'm trying to watch.'
A guy died and went to the heavens, the first thing he saw was a giant tree , after asking a nearby angel, he knew that this tree represents the faith of mankind, a leaf fell, he asked what is this? the angel said: A guy in the USA named Jeffrey Thomas has just lost his faith in God. another leaf fell, he asked again, who is this? The angel said: A guy in Japan named Oi-Wun has just cursed God. A few minutes later, there was a giant rumble from the tree and a whole bunch of leaves came tumbling down...Panicked, the guy asked: What is this? The angel said: Electricity went down in Nassiriya and everybody cursed God.