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.”

Update 2

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.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. […] I’ve published a small post on the bizarre, tragic, and dangerous teddy bear incident in the Sudan at Outside the Beltway. […]

  2. Mike says:

    A good example why countries like that will always be hell holes. So much for that whole “peaceful” religion thing.

  3. Anderson says:

    Language Log:

    What is linguistically interesting is the variation within the Muslim world in the appropriateness of using the name Mohammed. In most of the Muslim world this is a common name for boys, but in Turkey it is considered inappropriate to give a boy the same name as the prophet. In Turkish, the name Muhammed, which closely reflects the Arabic original, is reserved for the prophet. If you want to name your son after the prophet, you must name him Mehmet, the Turkicized form.

    Of course, since the poor little boy whose teddy started this is named Muhammad, it appears that Sudan is in the mainstream on this issue, if not on the consequences.

    (My little boy always wanted to name betta fish, etc., after himself, up to & including proposing his own name for his little brother. He thought it was bogus that we said that last was a bad idea.)

  4. Triumph says:

    Calling a bear “Muhammad” is peanuts compared to the REAL eponymic offense you see in this country all of the time: PEOPLE being named after the Son of God, Jesus.

    If we followed the example of Sudan and jailed religious offenders we could not only restore the dignity of our Christian Nation, but we could also put a stop to the immigration problem pretty damn quick.

    Anyone named Jesus would run for the border in short order.

  5. Andy says:

    One wonders if this would have happened if the British teacher were Muslim? I think probably not.

  6. Anderson says:

    PEOPLE being named after the Son of God, Jesus.

    Including of course Joshua, his “real” name.

    I understand that some Jews are actually so mocking of the One True Faith as to name their children after Our Savior.

  7. Christopher says:

    And Libs want to appease these people!

  8. Benedict says:

    I don’t excuse it; I simply acknowledge it.

    The problem is, Dave, that merely “acknowledging” that the barbarians are at the gate (or, as in the case of much of Old Europe, already in the citadel) is not sufficient. They need to be brought into the 21st century (hell, I’d take the 19th at this point), and the first step is not merely “acknowledging” the difference in the cultures but affirmatively stating that our modern Western Civilization is superior to their savagery and Sharia.

    Is that a position you are willing to take?

  9. Anderson says:

    They need to be brought into the 21st century (hell, I’d take the 19th at this point), and the first step is not merely “acknowledging” the difference in the cultures but affirmatively stating that our modern Western Civilization is superior to their savagery and Sharia.

    What are you smoking, Bennie? Who, exactly, do you imagine is going to be “brought into the 21st century” by being told his culture is “inferior” and “savage”?

    This is the stupidity (since we’re calling things by their names) that makes the Republicans incompetent to conduct foreign policy. Diplomacy 101: You get what you want by either (1) trading for it or (2) persuading the other guy that what *you* want is also what *he* wants. Not by (3) trumpeting your superiority and his inferiority.

  10. Scott_T says:

    Yeah Anderson, the Democrat’s have that one nailed down tightly.

    I won’t be holding my breath on how that worked w/ North Korea during Clinton’s adminstration and them getting their nuclear reactors going producing plutonium for their bombs.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    The problem is, Dave, that merely “acknowledging” that the barbarians are at the gate (or, as in the case of much of Old Europe, already in the citadel) is not sufficient. They need to be brought into the 21st century (hell, I’d take the 19th at this point), and the first step is not merely “acknowledging” the difference in the cultures but affirmatively stating that our modern Western Civilization is superior to their savagery and Sharia.

    I don’t think you read closely enough, Benedict. This is taking place in the Sudan not in San Diego. In this case the barbarians aren’t at the gate, they’re at home doing what they’ve done for 10,000 years. And, if you’d cared to read the links, you might have concluded that their complaints are far less Sharia than they are the traditional tribal practices that are older than Mohammed.

    We don’t have laws against naming teddy bears “Mohammed” here in the United States and, yes, that’s vastly superior to the poor, benighted places where ignorant illiterates are acting out their tribal beliefs and calling them “Islam”.

  12. Don says:

    Perhaps if we send Nancy Pelosi over there with her approved burrka, to explain to these fanatics
    that they need to consider that she had good intentions – before they behead her that is…

  13. cas says:

    “The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons…”
    I find this section of the news passage very revealing. Most of the crowds of protesters do not know anything about such blasphemies against their prophet until the Iman starts spouting his vile “call to action” at the local mosque…I wonder where they get their talking points from?

  14. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I think the Nation of Great Britain should inform the government of the Nation of Sudan that the incarceration of a British citizen for allowing a child to name a teddy bear after themselves is intolerable and will require a full military response. The outcome of this little adventure would be the restructuring of the Government of Sudan. Subsequently, this, of course would require the re-education of the population of Sudan to some other religion. In that area I would reference Sharia law and offer the choice of conversion or death. The influx of Anglicans would be astounding, after the elimination of a million or so hard liner.

  15. USpace says:

    Well said! Green Ink has a great cartoon of a MoTeddy, THAT would get the European Muzzies rioting too.

    This would make a wonderful Ramadan gift. A New Dark Age is Dawning has a link to them for sale at the Cafe Press store.

    Calling these ignorant freaks in Sudan human garbage is just too kind. Oh so peaceful, effin SICK animals…

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    give a pig a prophet’s name

    glorify the godly swine
    and thank him for his bacon

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    outlaw all teddy bears

    before some little kids
    try to honor a prophet

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    pay your teachers with DEATH

    for visiting to help out
    your ungrateful country