[Marxism] Guardian: real lineup of Muslims in Sudan Teddy Bear case highlights social forces that do not need imperialist dictationj

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Nov 27 19:55:47 MST 2007

Pupil defends teacher in Muhammad teddy furore
. Boy, 7, says he put forward his own name in class vote
. Woman spends third night in jail over blasphemy row

Xan Rice in Nairobi and Andrew Heavens in Khartoum
Wednesday November 28, 2007


A seven-year-old Sudanese boy has defended his British teacher, who stands
accused of insulting Islam's prophet, saying that he had suggested calling
the class teddy bear Muhammad because it was his own name.
Police arrested Gillian Gibbons, 54, on Sunday after complaints by parents
that she had acted blasphemously in allowing the toy to be called Muhammad.
Gibbons, a teacher at the exclusive British-style Unity high school in
Khartoum, had asked her pupils to name the bear as part of a project to
teach them about animals and their habitats. "The teacher asked me what I
wanted to call the teddy," the boy told Reuters. "I said Muhammad. I named
it after my name."

His suggestion was put to a class vote and was the clear winner. The boy,
who said he was not thinking about the prophet when he put forward his
choice, described Gibbons as "very nice".

Gibbons, who is from Liverpool, spent her third night in jail yesterday, as
she was moved from a local police station to a bigger police office in
Khartoum north, where she is waiting to be charged. She has retained a local
lawyer, but embassy officials were prevented from seeing her yesterday.

"She is still in detention and the investigation appears to be ongoing,"
said a British embassy spokesman in Khartoum. "We visited her on Monday and
we hope to be allowed to see her again tomorrow morning."

Gordon Brown said yesterday that he felt "very sorry for what has happened
to Miss Gibbons", and that every effort was being made to ensure a speedy
release. The Muslim Council of Britain also condemned the arrest, saying it
was "obvious that no malice was intended".

The Sudanese government is insisting the law follow its course. Mohamed
al-Mardhi, the justice minister, told local media that he had ordered the
country's general prosecutor to take charge of the case. "[The charges] are
under the Sudanese penal code ... insulting religion and provoking the
feeling of Muslims," he said. The offence carries a penalty of six months in
jail or 40 lashes.

The teddy bear incident occurred in September, a month after Gibbons arrived
in Sudan, but it was not until last week that Unity's director was informed
that a few parents had complained to the Ministry of Education that their
religion had been insulted. For devout Muslims, any depiction of the prophet
Muhammad is regarded as blasphemous.

The school is closed until January, for fear of reprisals. The feeling among
most teachers and parents at Unity - Muslim and non-Muslim - is that the
Sudanese authorities have overreacted.

"I'm annoyed ... that this has escalated in this way," Muhammad's mother
said. "If it happened as Muhammad said, there is no problem here - it was
not intended."

An English mother, who had a child in one of the other classes in Unity,
said: "I was just gobsmacked. And when I talked about it to colleagues who
were Muslims, they felt the same. They were amazed.

"When I first heard about the teddy bear I thought 'Oh no, don't go down
that road. That's a really bad idea.' But she had just arrived in Sudan. She
must have been idealistic, full of new ideas. She just didn't realise that
it was such a problem."

Even the Sudanese embassy in London called it a "storm in a teacup". Khalid
al-Mubarak, the embassy spokesman, told the BBC he expected the case would
be treated as a "minute complaint", and that cultural differences had caused
the problem. 

Guardian Unlimited C Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

More information about the Marxism mailing list