Sudan Pardons Teddy Bear Teacher

Mohammed Teddy Bear Gillian Gibbons, who was facing the death penalty for allowing school kids to name a teddy bear Mohammed, has been pardoned by Sudan’s president after the intervention of the British government.

A British woman jailed in Sudan for insulting religion was to be released on Monday after being granted a presidential pardon for insulting religion by naming a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohammed. Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir signed the pardon after meeting two British Muslim peers who flew to Khartoum on a mercy mission to petition for Gillian Gibbons’s early release after she was jailed for 15 days on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the news, saying he was “delighted and relieved” and that Gibbons would now be handed over to the British embassy in Khartoum “after what must have been a difficult ordeal”. “She was pardoned thanks to the mediation of Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi. She will be released in about an hour,” presidential advisor Mahjoub Fadl Badri told AFP as Beshir met the Muslim peers at the Republican Palace.

Gibbons, a mother of two who has only been in Sudan a few months, was arrested eight days ago after parents at the exclusive English school where she taught complained that she allowed young children to name the bear Mohammed.

The British Muslims, from Britain’s upper house of parliament, thanked Sudan and all those working behind the scenes for the pardon, and conveyed apologies from Gibbons for any offence she may have unwittingly caused.

A welcome outcome, indeed, but it’s amazing that it was allowed to escalate to this level. While I fully agree with my colleague Dave Schuler’s cautionary note about the need for Westerners to be mindful of local customs and mores when traveling, this was a ridiculously trivial and obviously innocent mistake. Clearly, since the Muslim children themselves thought it was proper to name the bear “Mohammed,” Gibbons could not have reasonably been expected to know otherwise.

Story via OTB News. Image via Deep Thoughts.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Clearly, since the Muslim children themselves thought it was proper to name the bear “Mohammed,” Gibbons could not have reasonably been expected to know otherwise.

    I disagree. Gibbons should have known better and asked herself: “How would a crazy Muslim respond to this?” That’s one way to stay alive/unflogged.

  2. Boyd says:

    It seems to me that, by definition, “crazy” reactions are impossible for a rational person to predict. For example, I could never predict how any of my ex-wives would react to just about anything.

  3. Just wondering says:

    I flew over Sudan once, on a Frankfurt-Nairobi flight. (Boy, talk about flyover land — except for Khartoum and the strip of green along the Nile it looked really desolate.) Now I’m not sure I even want to fly over it, wondering what sorts of things could befall me if we made an emergency landing.