Now The World Is Watching (Updated)
Protesters in the Sudan, unsatisified with the verdict of imprisonment rendered to British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons for the offense of naming a classroom teddy bear “Mohammed”, are calling for the poor woman’s death:
(CBS/AP) Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear “Muhammad.”
The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation.
They massed in central Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed, although they did not attempt to stop the rally.
“Shame, shame on the U.K.,” protesters chanted.
They called for Gibbons’ execution, saying, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”
The women’s prison where Gibbons is being held is far from the site, as is the Unity High School where she taught, which is under heavy security protection.
While I find the entire idea of the “offense” reprehensible I also think that visitors to distant lands need to be wary of trying to bring the legal rights they’re accustomed to at home with them. Remember Ambrose’s advice to Augustine, “Si fueris Romae…”, “When in Rome…”. There are lots of places in the world where talking about religion, particularly non-Muslims talking about Islam in even the remotest way, simply isn’t done. I don’t excuse it; I simply acknowledge it.
There has been a small amount of sane, temperate commentary on this matter I thought you might find interesting. In “Teddy Bears Are Haram” Aziz Poonawalla, posting at City of Brass, finds the attitude of the Sudanese unIslamic:
No rational person can consider naming a teddy bear “Mohammed” to be an insult. Especially given that Mohammed is the single most common name in the muslim world.
Mephisto at ‘Aqoul attended the school at which Mrs. Gibbons was teaching and has some insight into local conditions, the attitudes towards the school and its employees, and the Sudanese government.
I think it’s instructive to consider this incident and the “Qatif girl” scandal in Saudi Arabia that my fellow OTB associate blogger John Burgess has been covering so ably at Crossroads Arabia together. I have little doubt that outrageous incidents like these two have been going on, essentially, forever. Fifty or even ten years ago they would, no doubt, have passed unnoticed or little noticed not only in the West but also in the countries in which they took place. Now they’re making front page news.
The dreadful irony of the teddy bear incident in the Sudan is that the accusers are themselves guilty of the offense of which they’ve accused Mrs. Gibbons—insulting Islam. And now the world is watching.
Here’s the coverage of the story at Asharq Al-Awsat:
Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Sudanese court sentenced the British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, Thursday, to 15 days in prison on charges of insulting Islam after allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Gibbons is expected to be deported after carrying out her sentence.
The British government has stated that it would push for the teacher’s release.
Gibbons had one of her seven-year-old students bring in a teddy bear then asked the class to name it and they chose the name Mohammed. Each student then took the teddy bear home to write a diary entry about it, and the entries were compiled into a book with the bear’s picture on the cover, entitled “My Name is Mohammed,” explained Robert Boulos, the director of Gibbons’ Unity High School.
But an office assistant at the school, Sara Khawad, complained to the Ministry of Education that Gibbons had insulted the Prophet Mohammed. Khawad testified at Thursday’s trial, chief defense lawyer Kamal Djizouri said.
Khawad “was doing this out of revenge against the administration,” Djizouri said. He did not elaborate. But the director of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, Isam Abu Hasabu, claimed Khawad had argued with the principal before the incident.
Elsewhere, the seven-year-old Sudanese schoolchild, who named his teddy bear Mohammed, defended his British teacher in the local Sudanese press, saying “the teacher asked me what name I wanted to call my teddy bear and I told her Muhammad. I named it after my own name.”
The BBC reports that Lord Ahmed, the Muslim Labour peer, is going to Sudan to intercede on Mrs. Gibbons’s behalf:
Muslim Labour peer Lord Ahmed is travelling to Sudan to try to secure Mrs Gibbons’ release.
Lord Ahmed, who is being accompanied by the Conservatives’ Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, expects to meet President Omar al-Bashir and possibly the chief justice. He is travelling at the invitation of the Sudanese government.