In the 1980s, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu had Scrabble banned. According to him, it was “overly intellectual” and a “subversive evil”. But as of today, it seems like the ban has been lifted; in fact, there have been many scrabble competitions in Romania since the mid ‘80s.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s extremist group, banned samosas after deeming that the popular snack is “offensive” and too Christian. This bizarre ban is believed to have incurred because the Islamist militants have taken offence at the three-sided samosa’s supposed resemblance to the symbol of the Christian Holy Trinity. Although being served for centuries in African cuisines, the triangular food, known locally as “sambusas”, now seems incompatible with the stricter version of Islam.
This delicious combination of tomato, salt, vinegar, spice and sugar is forbidden in French primary schools. The French believe that the sloppy red sauce poses a cultural threat to traditional French cooking by masking the flavour of any dish.
One of the weirdest things to have been reported in China is the government’s crackdown on time travel—so far in the movies and on television. According to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, time travel represents “ambiguous values” and a “lack of active ideological significance”. Basically, the Chinese government doesn’t like the idea of people being “frivolous” with history.
Several countries have name bans, ostensibly to protect the “well-being” of the person being named or to sustain tradition, but also, in the case of China, to allow computer scanners to easily read names on national identification cards. In Denmark, the government lets parents choose from a list of 7,000 pre-approved names. If you want to name your child something other than the names given on the list, then you have to take special permission from the local church and the government. The first name should be a clear indication of the person’s gender, should never be a surname, and cannot be idiosyncratic. Around 1,000 names are rejected every year.
Roses are red, violets are blue; If you are in Saudi Arabia, no Valentine’s Day for you. The religion police states that unmarried Muslim men and women should not celebrate a non-Muslim festival. They believe that Valentine’s Day encourages immoral relationships.
The Iranian government sent a catalogue to their Barbers Association stating which hairstyles are acceptable for the Iranian men and women and which are not. Western hairstyles like the mullet, ponytail and spikes are banned. First-time offenders get an unruly short-back-and-sides cut. But serial offenders face heavy fines, and barber shops catering to Western styles can be shut down.
In Greece, any and all computer games are illegal. Whether it’s a console game or online solitaire and minesweeper, if you are in Greece you are forbidden to play them. The law 3037/2002 was intended to expose the electronic gambling empire, but it was framed so broadly that it led to the arrest of people playing video games in an Internet café and their own homes. Though this law was re-written and published in the Government Gazette issue 1827, on December 8, 2003, it still bans playing video games at Internet cafés.
Of all the things America could ban, they chose chocolate eggs with little toys in them. The much-loved Kinder Surprise eggs—hollowed-out chocolate eggs that hold tiny toys inside—has been out of favour with US legislators, who have banned candies with non-nutritive objects “embedded” in them under Section 402(d)(1) of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The ban has led to a healthy smuggling racket for the chocolates across the Canadian border, especially around Easter. Offenders can be fined as much as $2,500 per contraband egg. There’s even a Facebook page to “Free The Egg”.
The Fine City’s ban on chewing gum was issued over two decades ago, because of the escalating cost of cleaning up discarded gum in public spaces – particularly on the Mass Rapid Transit system, where wads were even wedged between a train’s doors. The penalty ranges from a fine to community work and jail time.
With inputs from Kamakshi Ayyar.
Kosha Deliwala is many things: reader of books, teller of incredibly comic stories, and one half of a stop-motion production house. When she's not working, you can find her planning creative scripts with her friends, or in bed, asleep.