A piece of news caught my eyes on the front page of the Egyptian Today newspaper the other day, so I figured I would tell you all about it, and you can decide whether it’s something funny, or tragic, or tragically funny. Ok? The piece of news was talking about the diligent efforts of the Egyptian Anti-drug administration fighting the drug menace that is Marijuana, by arresting the people who sell T-shirts with Marijuana leafs on them ( example here) or that may have drug friendly verbal content, and stickers and key chains in the shape of a Marijuana Plant. The article was mentioning how the police arrested about 5 shop honors, and about 10 workers with the charge of “Promoting drug-use” and as evidence they seized and I quote: “130 T-shirts with ‘Unlawful’(without mentioning what makes it unlawful mind you) drawings and verbal content, 3 hats, 13 metal key chains and 33 car stickers all shapes and sizes in the shape of a Marijuana leaf.” The Article also said the following: “ And it should be noted that there were previous numerous media campaigns that have warned of the spreading of strange sentences and slogans on the cloths of girls and boys that contradict our definition of morality and encourages decadence and debauchery, alongside with stores that got involved in selling gear that gets used by some society members that fall in the dangerous trap of blindly imitating the west and following western traditions that are not suitable or compatible with our traditions and society”! Ok, when I first read this article I fell on the floor laughing cause i thought it was a joke or someone’s idea of a satire, but it seemed to be serious and legit ( front page and all), which made it all the funnier. The reason why it’s so damn funny is due to the fact that like many other Egyptians, I am aware of the fact that the whole Egyptian Anti-drug administration doesn’t really try to arrest drug dealers, but actually collaborates with them and facilitates the drug trade all over Cairo. If you think I am kidding then drive your car to either the Suez or the Wahhatt highways and you will find every 100 meters or so a number of kids ages 11-22 standing alongside the road and all of them sell drugs. You park your car and they come over and lean on the car, you tell them what you want and they sell it to you and then you drive away. A couple of miles later you will find a police checkpoint where they will only stop your car and find the drugs and arrest your astonished ass. What you don’t know is that the drug dealing kid, while leaning in your car and talking to you, uses a piece of chalk to mark your car from the side. The cops at the check point only stop the cars with such a mark, because they know that you have drugs on board. Now you have 3 options: 1) you call your highly connected mommy, daddy, Uncle or friend and he talks to the cops and gets you out of it, and convinces then to let you go in exchange of a future favor ( very few can pull it off); or 2) you bribe the police with a lot of money to let you go and you have to give them the drugs as well (a lot of people do that); or 3) The cops will arrest your poor unconnected common Egyptian ass and hauls it to jail for a couple of days where they will beat the shit out of you and then you will have yourself a drug charge and you will get your car confiscated ( the unfortunate rest). The beauty of the deal is that the cops get to arrest some people, make a lot of bribe money or do some really important people “a big favor” that they can cash on later on, and the drug dealers get to sell their drugs and make their profit- which they share with the cops naturally- without ever getting hassled or arrested. The perfect example of a symbiotic relationship; everyone wins! Well, almost everyone! Ohh , and in the case you are one of those selfish drug dealers that want to keep all their profit to themselves, the police will make an example out of you so that the others will learn that sharing is indeed caring and that selfishness will get you in trouble. They will arrest your ass, steal any cash you may have around, and take away all your drugs, yet will only report the exact amount necessary to make it a major drug bust while dividing the remaining drugs among themselves. The officer who gets his share can then chose to use the drugs himself, or give them to a friend, or give them to a drug dealer who will sell it for him and give him the profit or have it around in case he ever has to arrest someone for whatever reason and needs some evidence to plant. I will never forget the day I was with my friend Sameh and his Police officer friend came over and gave him 4 KG of Hash wrapped in newspapers that were “his share” of today’s bust. That day we ended up getting a huge amount of free drugs from a police officer. Isn’t that nice? I thought it was very sweet of him. So yeah, you can imagine my shock- or disgust, up to you really- when I found out that the anti-drug police was arresting shop owners and workers who were selling shirts and car stickers with marijuana on them while allowing the actual drug dealers to have free reign and sell the actual drugs to whomever they please. I thought it was kinda ironic that they were arresting those earning their income through legitimate means and letting go of those who didn’t, you know? Anyway.. So upon reading this piece of news, I started calling everyone that I know that had such a shirt or had a pot sticker on his car to inform them of this disturbing new development, to find out that they already know: The ones with pot stickers on their cars got arrested and charged with “conspiracy to promote drug” and had their cars seized and confiscated because it was a “drug promoting and advertising” tool. Their parents freaked out and called all of their friends and relatives, and faster then you can say “Reefer Madness” any T-shirt the kids of those people had that had any kind of plant or tree or English sentences on them were thrown in the trash can. The Mass hysteria then flowed all over the malls in Egypt, with the owners quickly going through their stock and getting rid of any merchandise that may remotely resemble the criteria used by the police for arresting shop-owners and workers. Better safe then sorry , you know? Upon finding all of this out I started to think that the joke wasn’t all that funny anymore, and I certainly stopped laughing all together when I watched the Interview that the popular Egyptian TV Talk-show “ The House is Your House” had with the head of the Anti-drug administration. The following quotes are his responses to the questions presented to him by the 2 hosts of the show. Those are his actual words, I swear I am not making this up: On the purpose of this new campaign that just started out of nowhere and whether there is a point to arresting those people: “The Law is clear. It states that any one who promoted, aided in the promotion, advertised, educated or advocated any form of drugs or drug-use is aiding in drug trafficking. That’s what having those disgusting shirts are doing. Those kids who are wearing them are blindly imitating the west (That sentence again! Talking points anyone?) without any respect to our society, tradition ,laws or reality. I mean, look at this shirt for example, it shows a Marijuana Leaf and the word peace underneath it. If using Marijuana brought lead to peace, then the whole world would be at peace right now. But the whole world isn’t at peace, it is full of war and conflict, so that’s proof that the Marijuana use doesn’t cause peace and might actually be the reason for some of those conflicts.” ( Sorry, LOL LOL LOL! Ok, ok, moving on!) On the people who got arrested for working in shops that sold those T-shirts and the fact that the majority of them didn’t know what those T-shirts said because they don’t know and can’t read English: “ Well, that’s their problem. They should have someone translate for them what each T-shirt means if they want to stay out of trouble!” On whether this whole thing was a ploy by the government to distract the public during this time of political unrest and instability: “That’s absolutely not true and we refuse to acknowledge such ridiculous theories. Those people violated the law, and since our job is to enforce it, we had to arrest them!” On the logic behind only arresting those with T-shirts that had drugs or drug messages on them and leaving those who wear T-shirts with women in bikinis or with sexual messages roam free: “Who said we will let them roam free? We will arrest those people as well. But that’s not our job, that’s the job of the Vice police. But I assure you that they are working on it as we speak!” Ohh lord, I better get rid of that “ Kiss me..I am Egyptian” T-shirt quickly, huh? All kidding aside, this blows my mind, because of the stupidity of it all and what it means to our society. The idea that someone who was against drug-use will see a pot sticker on a car that will somehow make him violate his personal convictions, principles and morals and make him want to go and do drugs just blows my mind. I mean, how strong can those morals or convictions be if they can be turned over their heads by a sticker or a key chain? Please, take me down that scary road from your kid seeing a Pot sticker on a car to him doing drugs and selling his ass to gay Arabs in the Semriamis Intercontinental Hotel (Gay Arab Hot spot in Cairo) to score the price of a fix and I will get behind this measure ( No pun intended). But you know and I know this is not about drugs or drug-use; this is about controlling freedom of expression. This is about keeping people in check in a time of political unrest, while making those we know to be corrupt the new guardians of morality and decency. They are sending out the message that they have the ability to mess with you anytime they feel like it to the extent that they can arrest you for something that you are wearing in the name of protecting morality and decency. Never mind watching out for what I say in public, now I have to check what message my T-shirt may or may not send as well, cause it might be grounds to my arrest! What’s next? Arresting girls for wearing revealing cloths that violate our society’s perception of how a moral woman should be dressed? Or maybe get back to arresting people who wear Black T-shirts out of suspicion that they are Satanists? You never know! These days anything can happen! The sky is the limit so to speak. By the way, did anyone else notice the subliminal message in that whole “the dangers of blindly imitating the west” shtick? LOL We live in funny funny times!