Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tip of the Day: Cultural Mores Can You Get into "Real" Trouble!

As a reminder, every nation on Earth has laws, ordinances, and cultural mores that can potentially get you into legal trouble:

1. In many countries, for instance, not possessing an International Driving Permit (IDP) through your local auto club can earn you a stiff fine! Consequently, I urge anyone traveling abroad to get one, as the price is usually less than $20. Even if you're not planning to drive abroad, it comes in real handy as a second form of photo identification!;

2. Drinking while driving can result in jail time in several countries. To learn about the maximum blood alcohol levels worldwide go to:

3. Are you driving and using a mobile phone? Consider checking the below site out on countries that prohibit driving without a "hands-free" device. Even then, you could be in trouble:; 

4. Before you offer a local cop a bribe know whether you can be arrested for doing so. A good source to examine before traveling abroad is: 


5. In many countries in the Middle East (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for sure), possessing a copy of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, or Playboy can result in confiscation, a fine, or temporary detention;

6.  Loud and vulgar language, profanity, and spitting on the sidewalk can also subject you to fines. Police in Singapore can even impose a fine if you fail to flush a toilet, jaywalk or bring chewing gum into the country;

7. Avoid disputes with local businesses in all countries, as "getting into a beef" abroad can result in a call to local police. Remember, "locals" are never wrong;

8.  In many Islamic countries, the use of alcohol in public may require a "liquor license," but even so, most nations have a "zero-tolerance" for consuming alcohol which can get often get you arrested; and

9. In December 2007, a British teacher in Khartoum was arrested and jailed (and faced 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine) for naming a Teddy Bear in her class, “Mohammed,” an action that upset the parents of some of her students. Fortunately, British parliamentarians pleaded with the Sudanese president for clemency, who ordered the teacher deported.

There is a postscript

According to, the Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case concerns the 2007 arrest, trial, conviction, imprisonment and subsequent release of British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons, who taught middle-class Muslim and Christian children at the Unity High School in Khartoum.

Gillian Gibbons, now 61, was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam by allowing her class of six-year-olds to name a "teddy bear" "Muhammad." 

Initially it was thought that the complaint had originated from a parent of one of the children at the school. However, it was later revealed that an office assistant employed at the school, Sara Khawad, had filed the complaint and was the key witness for the prosecution.

Sudan's legal system is strongly influenced by sharia law, which prohibits depictions of Muhammad and other prophets. However, many Muslim organizations in other countries publicly condemned the Sudanese over their reactions.

November 25, 2007, Gibbons was arrested, interrogated and then put in a cell at a local police station. On November 28, it was reported that the teacher been formally charged under Section 125 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, for "insulting religion, inciting hatred, sexual harassment, racism, prostitution and showing contempt for religious beliefs."

This carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment, a fine, or 40 lashes. On November 29, 2007, Gibbons was found guilty of "insulting religion;" one of the three counts against her, and was sentenced to 15 days' imprisonment and deportation.

The Muslim Council in Great Britain, an collective group of British Muslims, including MPACUK, said the punishment was "completely unjustified," was "appalled," and called on the Sudanese government to intervene.

On November 30, approximately 10,000 protesters took to the streets in Khartoum, some waving swords and machetes, demanding Gibbons' execution after imams denounced her during Friday prayers.

During the march, chants of "Shame, shame on the UK", "No tolerance – execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad" were heard. Witnesses reported that government employees were involved in inciting the protests. 

Ms. Gibbons was then moved to a secret location because of fears for her safety.

In an attempt to push for the release of Gibbons, two British Muslims [member of the House of Lords]; Lord Ahmed; and Baroness Warsi, a conservative; visited Sudan with hopes of talking to the country's President Omar al-Bashir.

While the two British politicians were meeting with the President on December 3, it was announced that Gibbons was to be released from prison having been granted a presidential pardon. After eight days in jail, she was released into the care of the British Embassy in the capital and returned to Liverpool.

Interestingly, the school was closed until January 2008, for the safety of pupils and staff as reprisals were feared. 

So,  in the end, "cultural mores" DO matter!