Thursday, 29 November 2007

Teacher charged in Sudan inciting hatred and insulting Islam over naming of Teddy Bear

Many of us will now be aware of the plight of Gillian Gibbons, a teacher fairly recently arrived in the Sudan, who is in trouble because she didn’t prevent a pupil of her’s named Mohammed naming a teddy bear after himself. It has been posted about quite a bit on the net.

Teddy bears have a pretty positive image, so inciting hatred is difficult to see and if a president of the US did not find it insulting to have them generically named after him, then why should it be seen as an insult?

In any event, it was not Gillian Gibbons who named the Teddy.

Before this incident I had rightly, or wrongly, largely associated the place largely with the slaughter and beheading of General Charles Gordon, in Khartoum, by ‘mad’ Mahdi Mohammed Ahmed - Now I have something else to tuck into my mental ‘Sudan’ pigeonhole with that.

And before anyone says it - no I have not forgotten Darfur, or the Sudanese government’s semi official military arm the Janjaweed.

The Sudanese Embassy had previously claimed it was all "storm in a teacup" and she could be released soon, as the incident was based on a cultural misunderstanding.

It seems this is not the case and she has now been charged with insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs. This could result in a fine, prison, or 40 lashes. It’s just as well New Labour had the teeth pulled on a bill introducing similar legislation here - for the moment.

It is difficult to see what the Sudanese authorities are playing at, one presumes they are not actually trying to bring Mohammedism and Sharia Law into disrepute, or make the average Westerner more suspicious of their co-religionists, but they would have found it difficult to do a better job of it if they were.

Maybe they are hoping to use the affair as leverage...

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