It seems important to point this out, given the hushed, respectful tones with which the British media have been reporting the arrest in Malaysia of a British woman for the alleged (and pretty impressive) crime of causing an earthquake with her bare breasts.Now, instead of returning home to continue her studies for a Masters in aeronautics and aerospace engineering at the University of Southampton, the former public school girl is sitting in a prison cell in Borneo and admits she was "stupid and disrespectful".
No one else saw them strip off except their park ranger guide, who later reported it to police, and all the many millions of Malaysians who appear to have spent many hours searching Facebook for the offending photographs so they could be offended by them.
What is so ridiculous about Miss Hawkins’ plight is the way her case is being treated by the British media - as if the Malaysians actually have a perfectly justified reason for claiming that the naked selfies caused a fatal earthquake.
Are we also supposed to pay respect to someone who believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden or the Easter bunny?
What if Miss Hawkins had holidayed in Haiti and now stood accused of using voodoo to kill innocent Haitians – would we have to respect local cultures and beliefs then?
Apparently so, because, no matter how dumb and absurd anyone else’s beliefs are, it seems we are expected to show respect for them.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, we are told from an early age.
The only place where that rule doesn’t apply is in Britain, when anyone and everyone can travel to our country and be allowed to do and say whatever they want, even if it directly conflicts with the values and beliefs of most Britons. Despite the blatant contradiction with our values of gender equality and inclusion, for instance, it is legal for a Muslim woman to cover her face with a burkha or niqab.
Now, as a general rule, I think it’s a good idea not to do things that might get you arrested in foreign countries.
I am not someone who generally has much sympathy for people who travel to another country, knowingly break the law, and then cry “foul” and wave their British passports around like a get-out-of-jail-free card. You do the crime, you do the time, whether it is smuggling drugs or, in this case, public nudity.