Jokes are meant to be tongue-in-cheek ideas or stories with punchlines that make people laugh ... but that's not what they're based on in the Arab world. In our countries, some think that to get a few laughs you need to be offensive, sexist, and even racist.
For decades, many have gotten away with making fun of black people, women, and minorities while passing incredibly offensive comments as "light jokes."
It's time to call things by their name. It's one thing to make a good joke that is the result of thoughtful sarcasm and the art of comedic timing, and it's completely another to offend people with revolting generalizations and stigmatizations.
Here are a few kinds of Arab jokes that must be destroyed ASAP:
1. Ridiculous "7amasne" jokes
"Syrians are famous for making jokes about people from Homs. Even though every Syrian has a Homsi friend or relative, they still have to thickly joke about them."
These kind of jokes are widely popular, especially in the Levant, and stem from the false generalization that the people of the Syrian city Homs "have low IQ."
Exhibit A: "What's always written in a Homsi person's shoe? Toes first."
Exhibit B: "A Homsi man named his son 'baba' after his father."
Millions try to laughingly brush off these not-so-funny jokes when they're simply not acceptable. Why? Because they're insulting to an entire community.
Nope, no group of people collectively share the same IQ, which practically makes Homsi jokes quite unintelligent.
2. Racist jokes about black people
Unfortunately, racist jokes targeting black people from specific countries including Somalia and Sudan are quite common in countries all over the Arab world. As disgusting as the below examples are, they still circulate among us in 2019.
Exhibit A: "A Somali woman went to work with frizzy hair because it was the day of the tree."
Exhibit B: "A Sudanese student went to school during a blackout so they marked him as absent."
It's time to call anyone who makes similar abhorrent comments while claiming they're "jokes" because they are as insulting and unacceptable as they are lame.
3. Unacceptable jokes about domestic workers
From belittling their occupation to making fun of them, jokes about the women who help in households are the worst you'll ever hear.
Some laugh at these shameful phrases that often center around domestic helpers being "unintelligent" or "daft," when the reality is those are attributes of the people who make up these so-called jokes.
Exhibit A: "A woman asked her Sri Lankan domestic worker if she changed the water in the fish tank so she responded: 'No madam, they didn't drink the water in there yet."
Exhibit B: "May God grant us a maid that works like turbo batteries."
As if the mistreatment they face in our countries isn't enough, some Arab television producers think it's funny to put on skits mocking domestic workers. But let's just make one thing clear: It's anything but funny; it's just plain racist and horrendous.
4. Sexist jokes belittling women
Arab women are often the target of the most sexist and misogynistic jokes.
There are some that make fun of women's ability to drive, others further perpetuate messed up gender roles, and a few compare the intelligence of women to animals. If you're thinking things can't get any worse, they unfortunately do:
Exhibit A: "An Arab girl asked her friend if she wanted to go on an adventure and when she asked her what it was, she responded: Going out without make up."
Exhibit B: "What's common between women and nail fasteners? They both don't go into their homes unless they're beaten.
Seriously, who's laughing? NOBODY.
5. Insulting fatphobic jokes
If you're an overweight Arab person, you're bound to have heard a few despicable and offensive so-called jokes about your size.
For some reason, many Arabs think it's hilarious to make fun of people's appearances. But let's see if it is:
Exhibit A: "A fat woman once went to the beach and caused a sea tide."
Exhibit B: "How did your friend die? His fat wife rolled over the bed."
Laughter? Anyone? No, because these aren't jokes, they're just comments that need to be called out for what they are: Blatant insults.