No doubt you’ll have learned by now that Gillian Gibbons has received a jail sentence in Sudan for naming a teddy-bear Muhammad.
The vile criminal.
Of course, like me, you’ll have followed the Khartoum police investigation with awe and amazement as their investigative unit swung into action and cracked the case within hours. What an outfit! What a bunch of crime-busters!
Deeply impressive police work. Here’s a hearty “Well done!” to the Khartoum Cops.
In case you missed the facts, this involves a British teacher working in Sudan, who had the children vote to name a toy teddy-bear. The kids called the teddy after a popular child in the school called Muhammad, and everyone was happy, with the kids taking turns to bring the bear home. All went well until a secretary in the school decided to become offended, upset it seems at the class’s naming of the bear after the Prophet.
Now, I thought it wasn’t named after the Prophet. I thought it was called after after a kid in the school, but the Khartoum Cops took a different view, and they arrested the teacher, before launching a high-powered investigation.
They called in the CSI. They called Poirot. They sent for Inspector Ghoti. They alerted the Fish Police, Sam Spade, Batman, and Elliot Ness. The Leith Police dismissed them.
Finally they had enough evidence to put before a court, with DNA, CCTV, psychological profiling, phonetic forensics, butterfly larvae and pictures of bald tyres. A cast-iron case for a brutal criminal.
This morning , I opened up my Irish Times and read a little piece by Rob Crilly in Khartoum that seemed strangely relevant, given the recent criticism of Bock for using certain terminology.
Here’s what the report says: —
“What has been done by this infidel lady is considered a matter of contempt and an insult to Muslims’ feelings and also the pollution of children’s mentality as an attempt to wipe their identity”, said the leaflet handed out by a moderate suffi group at Khartoum’s Great Mosque.
Eh, moderate? These are the moderates? Impressive. Let’s see the extremists.
In the interests of balance, it only seems fair to quote some of the comments from Muslims.
Here’s what Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain said:
This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith. The children in Ms Gibbons’ class and their parents have all testified as to her innocence in this matter. We call upon the Sudanese President, Umar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Ms Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal.
And here are some comments by Muslims on the BBC site. Many are understanding. Some are not. One commenter makes the eminently reasonable suggestion (it seems to me) that the toddlers who named the bear should be punished.
This seems like a great idea. How many lashes do you reckon a four-year-old could take without dying?
In fact, why stop there? If the little blasphemers really disrespected the Prophet, maybe they should all be whipped to death, in that great moderate Islamic tradition we’ve come to know and love. Or maybe they should be treated as the prophet did his nine-year-old wife?
Anyway, here are the comments:
My 12-year-old son goes to the same school where Ms Gibbons is a teacher. The culture here, as elsewhere in the Islamic world, is very sensitive. That’s why the story took such a direction. Maybe she didn’t mean this to happen and it was an innocent mistake. But they don’t accept that as an excuse. Lashes is a severe punishment and it is too harsh for what she did. But she has to be punished somehow. She should have learnt more about this society and taken more care about her actions. Me and other parents are not happy about the school closure. The children are going to miss so many classes and they were supposed to have exams next week. Now they have to stay at home and wait.
Fatima, Khartoum Sudan
I’ve been a student at the Unity High School for the last seven years. I am really worried about Miss Gillian. I don’t know her because she teaches the younger schoolchildren, but I always see her playing with the kids and making them feel happy. She seems to be a wonderful teacher. I am a Muslim but I am not offended by what she did. She had no idea that it is forbidden. She should be freed.
Razan, Khartoum, Sudan
I believe this was a misunderstanding and the authorities are sensitive in light of the recent cartoon fiasco in Europe. I think it will be resolved and Miss Gibbons will eventually be cleared and allowed to go home. But it highlights how sensitive and defensive people have become. I pray it is all resolved soon and Ms Gibbions is allowed home.
Sultanah, Khartoum, Sudan
To feel offended by what the teacher did is impossible. She should not be punished for something like that. I believe that the teacher is in her right mind and is aware that she is in an Islamic country. I am sure she knows what can create religious tension and she wouldn’t have done such a thing on purpose. The poor lady is being accused of a sin she did not commit. I hope and pray that the UK government will take this seriously and intervene with vigour before things get out of hand. Why aren’t Muslim brothers taking more kindly to such things? Sanity my people!
Salma Aki, Khartoum Sudan
I was at the Unity High School when the event took place. I am a student there. I think it was a misunderstanding. I feel sorry for the teacher, sadly she lacked common sense. I am supporting Miss Gillian and I hope she can be free soon.
Mohamed Ahmed Osman, Khartoum, Sudan
I’m a Muslim and I find it ridiculous that such a harmless incident could incite such hatred. Where is the common sense? There are people called Muhammad who behave worse than animals and yet we have to imprison a teacher for choosing this name for a teddy bear. Simply outrageous.
From BBCArabic.com: Why did she choose this name in particular? There are many other names for these toy bears and children’s TV shows are full of them. It is actually an insult to Prophet Mohammed.
Amira al-Marani, Yemen
I was born in Sudan. I moved to the UK two years ago. The teacher went to Sudan and she should have learnt the laws of that country. Here in England people think that what she did was an innocent mistake, but I don’t think that. She was very wrong to make fun of the Prophet Muhammad. Boys are called Muhammad and that’s alright because mothers are proud to name their sons after the Prophet. But to name a teddy bear after him is wrong. The teacher should be punished because she has insulted Islam and Muslim people.
It looks unintentional. Therefore the teacher shouldn’t be punished. However, as a teacher she should be more careful and be thoroughly aware about other faiths in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious global environment. What would the teacher’s reaction be if one of the students suggested the name Jesus?
From BBCArabic.com: Muhammad is a very common name for Muslims. If we are to punish this teacher for calling a teddy bear Mohammad, then we should punish criminals for being called Mohammad. The truth is that these failed regimes want to keep people busy with these trivial matters. Sudan has enough problems already. How would Sudan feel if European countries deported Sudanese citizens as a response to this action?
Speaking as a father I do not feel this was a well thought out plan by the teacher. However, I feel that she has done nothing wrong. The children themselves should be punished for having chosen the name of our great Prophet for a lowly bear. The teacher was misguided, whereas the children were malicious. They must be brought to answer for their blasphemy.
Abdullah Al-Zawawi, Sudan
This is absolutely insane. I could understand if it was meant as a malicious attack, but it is obvious that this is far from that. It was a simple mistake made by a foreigner in that country. There are many social and cultural mistake that foreigners make in the UK. I hope that they realise soon and release this woman.
Alex, Northern Ireland
From BBCArabic.com: It was an unintentional mistake on her part to call the toy Mohammad.
The children voted as well. They should lock them up too, as a lesson to anybody who insults Prophet Muhammad.
K K Djibouto, Sudan
As a committed Muslim who would always hope to uphold the dignity of Prophet Muhammad, I am outraged by the ignorance of the Sudanese authorities. The name Muhammad is given to others and is not exclusive to the Prophet, therefore why should they think the teacher intended the toy to be an effigy? While it is not befitting to give an animal this beautiful name, any half-witted person can see that this was done with good intention. The idea of hardline rules and punishments for such trivial issues is in no way a reflection of the true Islamic teaching and I expected better from Sudan. I believe it makes a mockery of the traditionally upright and just Islamic law system. I hope the school teacher will be freed at once and apologised to.
Siddiq Bland, Leicester, UK
From BBCArabic.com: This incident shows how some people insist on insulting Prophet Mohammed in spite of the fact that they know that Muslims respect and venerate him. This teacher lives in a Muslim country and surely she knows how Muslims feel about the Prophet.
Yohanna Yousuf, Mosul, Iraq
This is unbelievable. I’m fed up of reading and hearing stupid incidents like these, which further enhance the incorrect portrayal of Islam. The teacher has quite clearly made an innocent mistake. Islam is about tolerance and forgiveness. The possible repercussions of this incident contradict this entirely. It provides more fuel for the anti-Muslim sentiment around the world.
British Muslim, London, England
It is ludicrous that Sudanese officials found the actions of this teacher offensive to their religion. By no means did she try to create a visual image of Prophet Muhammad, especially as the visual aid was in fact a harmless stuffed teddy bear. Since visual representation of the Prophet is considered blasphemous, then shouldn’t all those Muslim men who are named after the Prophet change their names?
Nishank Motwani, New Delhi, India
From BBCArabic.com: The fact that she is English and lives in an Arab country makes her aware of our traditions and values. The English in particular know a lot about us and are respectful in their dealings in Arab countries. I think that if any action is to be taken, it should be to deport her and ask for an official clarification of what she meant by her action.
I am a Muslim, and I must say that the interpretation of the rules has gone too far. I can only expect that the teacher wanted to respect the children’s honour of the Prophet by naming the teddy bear after him. It is a popular name. Every other boy in Malaysia has Muhammad as part of his name. I don’t think that she intentionally tried to offend the Prophet. Children have a tendency to name favourite objects with their favourite names and, if anything, parents should feel rather proud that their children find the name Muhammad so dear to them. This ridiculous interpretation of Islamic rules should be stopped.
Syazwina Saw, Malaysia
From BBCArabic.com: My name is Mohammed. Should my parents be tried for insulting Islam?