From reincarnating without the government’s permission to watching a Claire Danes movie in Manila, check out 10 things that you won’t expect to be banned.
Coffee seems a fairly innocent substance – but it’s been on the international hit list not once but four times. The first time it was banned was in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to incite radical thinking and hanging out in groups. The governor was afraid it might unite his opposition. The cup of Joe got a bad name as a stimulant because some Sufi Sects were using it as a pick-me-up during prayers.
In 16th Century Europe the church immediately tried to have it banned as satanic. Pope Clement turned out to be a caffeine lover and gave Java his blessing. He even joked that it should be baptized!
After Murad IV took the Ottoman throne in 1623, he quickly forbade coffee. The punishment for a first offense was a beating. Anyone caught with coffee a second time was sewn into a leather bag and thrown into the waters of the Bosporus.
Sweden gave coffee the ax in 1746. The government went as far as banning “coffee paraphernalia”—with police actually confiscating cups and dishes. King Gustav III even ordered convicted murderers to drink coffee while doctors monitored how long the coffee took to kill them, a plus for the convicts and very dull for the doctors!
Weird baby names
Many countries regulate what parents can name their children, including requirements that vary from not causing offence to containing the correct vowels.
If Icelandic parents want to give their children a name outide of the National Register of Persons, they must pay a fee and apply for government approval. In addition to not being a potential source of humiliation, the name only include letters in the Icelandic alphabet and conform to the language grammatically.
One family was unable to renew their daughter Harriet’s passport because her name can’t be conjugated in Icelandic. Her brother Duncan also had a banned name (there’s no letter “C” in the Icelandic alphabet), and the children instead must carry passports that list their names as “Girl” and “Boy.”
Denmark is another country that requires parents to choose baby names from a pre-approved list of 7,000 names. Parents need permission from the government to venture outside the list of 7,000 names. Each year approximately 250 names are rejected – among them, the names Monkey, Pluto and Anus.
Sweden has naming laws so trict that in 1982, a law was passed to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names. Today the law vaguely states that “first names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name.” In protest of the restrictions, one couple decided to name their child “BRFXXCCXXMNPCCCCLLLMMNPRXVCLMNCKSSQLBB11116”. The name, pronounced “Albin,” (of course) was rejected. The parents later submitted the name with the same pronunciation but rewritten as “A.” That was rejected as well.
As is the case with many countries, China doesn’t allow symbols and numerals to be included in baby names. The “at” symbol is pronounced “ai-ta” in Chinese, which sounds similar to a phrase meaning “love him.” One couple felt the symbol was a fitting name for their son, but the Chinese government apparently did not agree.
Male Ponytails and Mullets
“Homosexual” and “devil worshipping” hairstyles have been banned in Iran, alongside tattoos, sunbed treatments and plucked eyebrows for men, which are all deemed un-Islamic.
The move – aimed at spiky cuts – follows a trend where, each summer, Iranian authorities get tough on men and women sporting clothing or hairdos seen as imitations of western lifestyles.
In 2010, Iran banned ponytails, mullets and long, gelled hair for men, but allowed 1980s-style floppy fringes or quiffs.
In a separate interview broadcast by the exiled Iranian opposition television channel, Manoto, Govahi said barbers across Iran had been given a list of appropriate hairstyles for men. He said hairstyles adopted by homosexuals were also banned but did not provide further details on what sort of haircut that would be.
“Haircuts that show symbols or signs of devil worshippers or those adopted by homosexuals are banned,” he said. “I won’t allow such wrongful western styles as long as I’m in this position.” He said the policy was in line with the cultural norms outlined by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Baby walkers are not allowed in Canada – at all. Retailers can’t advertise or carry them nor can parents sell used ones. If they do, they face hefty fines of up to $100,000 or six months in jail.
The baby walker ban officially became law in April 2004, after 15 years of retailers not selling them on a voluntary basis. Health Canada decided to make it law because Canadians were still bringing them in to the country despite the safety risks. Health Canada collected data from 16 hospitals across the country and discovered more than 1,900 babies aged five to 14 months suffered baby walker injuries between 1990 and 2002.
Despite the ban, some Canadians are still determined to find ways of getting their hands on one. They have tried ordering them on eBay or smuggling them across the border themselves. But, if found, customs officers will seize the baby walker.
All the movies featuring actress Claire Danes are banned in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. The ban was imposed in 1998 after the actress, pissed off the city by telling Premiere magazine :
“It just f***ing smelled like cockroaches…There’s no sewage system. [We saw] people with like, no arms, no legs, no eyes, no teeth… Rats were everywhere.”
In a separate interview, with Vogue, she called the city “ghastly and weird”.
The Manila city council passed a motion, 23 to 3, to ban the actress from the city and prevent her films playing in its movie theatres until she made a public apology. They were supported by the country’s president Joseph Estrada, who said: “She should not be allowed to come here.”
Danes swiftly issued an apology, which was rejected by Kim Atienza, the city councillor-cum-TV weatherman who’d originally proposed the ban. Claire Danes remains barred from entering Manilla.
She’s not the only celebrity to have crossed Manila and been sorry. The Beatles missed an appointment to meet the first lady during their 1966 visit. The band soon found themselves served with an enormous tax bill, elevators stopped working on their approach, the hotel refused room service, and they were attacked by locals on their way to their flight out. Justin Bieber posted Instagram pictures mocking Manny Pacquiao, Filipino congressman and boxer, for getting knocked out in a fight. The response? Congress urges that the Bieber be banned from the country and instructed the country’s youth to boycott Bieber’s album.
Reincarnation without the government’s consent
As bizarre as it sounds, China bans reincarnation without the government’s consent. The move apparently is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.” Only Buddhist monasteries are allowed to apply for the permission. The ban was introduced in 2007 and is still in place.
Zhu Weiqun, head of an influential ethnic-and-religious-affairs committee, insisted that it was the Chinese government job to appoint the Dalai Lama’s successor. “The 14th Dalai Lama hasn’t shown a serious or respectful attitude on this issue,” Zhu huffs. “He sometimes says he will reincarnate as a foreigner in a place where he visits, sometimes to a woman. When someone gives him a bottle of honey, he would happily say he is going to become a bee in the next life.”
China’s true motive is to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human his work.
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov has banned the playing of recorded music at all public events, on television and at weddings.
This is the latest move by the authoritarian president to minimise foreign influence in the isolated former Soviet state, analysts say.
In the daily newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan (Neutral Turkmenistan) newspaper, the president said the move aimed to “protect true culture, including the musical and singing traditions of the Turkmen people”.
And in comments broadcast on state television, Mr Niyazov told his cabinet: “Unfortunately, one can see on television old voiceless singers lip-synching their old songs.
“Don’t kill talents by using lip-synching… create our new culture.”
Some of the many decrees President Niyazov has spawned include forbidding long hair or beards for young men and renaming calendar months after the president and his mother.
Dying in the House of Parliament
People are not allowed to die in the English Houses of Parliament in because dying there entitle them to a state funeral. The law was voted as the most absurd law of Britain in a survey conducted in 2008.
The reason people are banned from dying in parliament is that it is a Royal palace.
Nigel Cawthorne, author of The Strange Laws of Old England, said: “Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral. “If they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly.”
Other weird Old England laws include Oliver Cromwell’s decree to combat gluttony by banning people from eating mince pies on Christmas Day and the revelation that a pregnant woman can relieve herself anywhere she wants – including in a policeman’s helmet.
Peeing standing up after 10 PM
A man may not relieve himself while standing up after 10 PM in Switzerland. Also, you are not supposed to flush the toilet after 10 PM.
Depending on an apartment building’s posted rules, these basic actions may be prohibited. Although thanks to modern building techniques and proper insulation, the gushing sound of sewage or shower water has become less of an issue these days.
Although there is no particular paragraph in Swiss law restricting tenants from these things, the Swiss Homeowners’ Society (HEV) leaves it open to the owner to set those rules.
1. Frowning in Milan
There’s not much to be sad about in Milan — there’s prime shopping and plenty of pizza. However, should you feel down while touring the city, be warned, you should keep a smile on your face. It is a legal requirement in Milan to smile at all times, with funerals and hospital visits being the exception.
In a 2014 Corriere della Sera article, “historian” Andrea Santangelo describes this rule, which he also mentions in his and Lia Celi’s book Mai stati meglio, as coming from a nineteenth century City regulations imposed by the Austrians then ruling over Milan, due to one “Luigi Fabio”, and never repealed since then.
“Down with grumbles, no more glumness or long faces: in Milan law compels you to smile. It is prescribed by a City regulation from the Austro-Hungarian times. Other times, indeed, things are different now, but that law was never repealed… “
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.