November 27, 2007
Sudan Accuses Teacher of Islam Insult
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 26 — The Sudanese police arrested a British schoolteacher and accused her of insulting Islam after she allowed her 7-year-old pupils to name a class teddy bear Muhammad, Sudanese officials said today.
The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, was arrested on Sunday in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, after a number of parents complained, said Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman.“How can you call a bear Muhammad?” he said. “Muhammad is the holy prophet of Islam.”
Dr. Rabie said the authorities had obtained a letter Ms. Gibbons sent home with students explaining that her primary school class was doing a project on animals and had adopted a teddy bear named Muhammad.
“Her letter said there was an intelligent bear named Muhammad, and the letter instructed parents to take pictures with this bear,” Dr. Rabie said. “This is not acceptable, according to the general opinion of our society.”
In Islam, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is considered a grave offense, and the law of northern Sudan, where Khartoum is located, makes this a crime. The private, relatively expensive Unity School in Khartoum, where Ms. Gibbons taught, educates a mix of Christian and Muslim Sudanese children, and the lessons are in English.
Ms. Gibbons is in jail, pending further investigation, Dr. Rabie said.
“If she is innocent, she will be set free,” Dr. Rabie.
If she is guilty, Dr. Rabie said, she will face punishment, possibly including lashes.
“I hope she didn’t mean what the people thought,” he added, saying it was possible that Ms. Gibbons did not intend to offend Islam.Officials at the school have defended Ms. Gibbons.
“This was a completely innocent mistake,” Robert Boulos, the director of Unity High School, told BBC. “Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam.”
According to BBC, Ms. Gibbons, 54, asked a seven-year-old girl to bring in a teddy bear and for her classmates to pick a name for it.
“They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammed,” Mr. Boulos said.
When it came time to vote, 20 out of 23 children choose Muhammad, one of the most common names in the Muslim word.
The students then took turns bringing the bear home on weekends, and wrote a diary about what they did with it. According to the BBC, the children’s entries were bound together in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a message that read, “My name is Muhammad.”
The teddy bear ordeal comes just a few weeks after Sudanese authorities said that no troops from Scandinavia could serve as peacekeepers in Darfur, where the United Nations is trying to send an expanded peacekeeping force, because Danish newspapers published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad two years ago.
Those cartoons set off riots across the Muslim world and several dozen people were killed.
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, said in a recent interview with Al Jazeera that, “We in Sudan declared mobilization against the Scandinavians after the publishing of the offensive cartoons of the Prophet,” and that the Sudanese people would not accept Scandinavian troops because of this.
His rejection of the Scandinavians complicates efforts to bolster the peacekeeping force with appropriate technical expertise. The force is supposed to be predominantly African, according to an agreement Sudan reached with the United Nations and the African Union, but United Nations officials said it was essential to include experts from developed countries and were hoping to send teams from Norway and Sweden.
Okay, so the kids decided on the name, there are most likely kids in the class with that same name, and yet the teacher is likely to get publically whipped. Like the Saudi rape victim who was sentenced to being whipped for being in a situation where rape could take place (And when she protested the sentence, the number of lashes was increased to punish her for wasting the court's time...) this is an example of fundamentalism gone where fundamentalism is sadly wont to go.
Keep in mind that these people (the Saudis, at least) are U.S. allies.