Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Strange Cure for Contempt

From today’s Daily News:

Teacher charged with inciting hatred over teddy

Wednesday, November 28th 2007, 11:32 AM

A British teacher under arrest in Sudan was formally charged Wednesday with inciting hatred for allowing her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

If convicted, Gillian Gibbons, 54, could be sentenced to 40 lashes, a fine or six months behind bars. The case goes to court on Thursday.

State media reported Gibbons, from Liverpool, England, also faced charges of insulting religion and showing contempt of religious beliefs.

Only yesterday, according to a Guardian Unlimited story, ("Sudan plays down teddy blasphemy case")the Sudanese foreign ministry in Great Britain was trying to downplay the whole thing. On Monday night, “a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London said he believed the teacher would be cleared and the "minute" issue resolved amicably very quickly”:

Dr Khalid al-Mubarak told BBC Radio 4's PM programme the police had no choice but to follow procedure after a complaint from a parent.

"The police are bound to investigate just as is the case in any country in which there is rule of law. Our relationship with Britain is so good that we wouldn't like such a minute event to be overblown."

He added: "I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly and this teacher who has been helping us with the teaching of children will be safe and will be cleared."

Asked about the potential punishments of six months in jail or 40 lashes, he said: "I hope people will not give their imagination free rein to think about such things."

Dr al-Mubarak has good reason not to want Britons, or other Westerners, to imagine a 54-year-old schoolteacher getting 40 lashes over nothing--nothing.

I hope people will give free rein and think about this unfortunate woman getting flogged by a Sudanese thug --I hope we all think about it very hard.

Sudanese authorities admit that no parent complained about this, and it wasn't even the teacher, but one of Ms. Gibbons’s students, a seven-year-old boy, who quite innocently gave the teddy bear the name, which happened to be the boy's own. Even some Muslim authorities asked about it were puzzled about why she was being charged, given there obviously was no malicious intent.

No one was harmed. No one, that is, except Allah, who happens to be the touchiest deity of all the world’s religions. And I thought I was hypersensitive.

Sudanese officials are behaving as if their hands are tied, shrugging and explaining how Sudanese law is based on Sharia, which is only another way of saying that punishment must not fit the crime so much as it must placate a splenetic and irrational god. When this is what is meant by "the rule of law," don't expect much in the way of prosecutorial discretion.

Dr al-Mubarak did say yesterday that police have to follow the rule of law and investigate, but that he thought the teacher was going to be cleared because the incident was “minute.” But I'll bet he already knew better, which is why he wanted to warn us in advance not to think about the awful image of a middle-aged schoolteacher being flogged by an Islamic thug. There's nothing we can do! When Allah’s feelings get hurt, somebody’s blood has to flow.

And so there's no surprise as today we learn that not only is Ms. Gibbons not being cleared of the "minute incident," but prosecutors managed to come up with at least three charges leading to harsh penalties: inciting hatred, insulting religion and showing contempt of religious beliefs.

Let's hope the British government can put together a stern enough package of behind-the-scene diplomatic threats to convince the Sudanese to let this poor woman go.

But if not, I have to wonder, if and when this punishment is actually carried out, how likely it will be to have the effect of causing large numbers of nonMuslims looking on in horror to hate Islam, insult Islam, and feel contempt for Islam?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This week's events in Sudan really have to make the rest of the world shake their heads in wonder. A 54-year-old British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, who had recently arrived in Sudan, has been arrested by Sudanese authorities. Her crime? It seems that as part of her lessons on bears to her class of 7-year olds, she had the pupils bring in teddy bears to class. As part of the lesson, the children were asked to choose names for the teddy bears. The children chose the name, Mohammed for one bear, and all hell broke loose. It seems that naming a teddy bear Mohammed is an insult against Islam. Accordingly, Ms Gibbons has been arrested and charged for blasphemy- or whatever they call it.

During the ensuing diplomatic crisis between Sudan and Britain, it was reported that the unfortunate lady was facing a maximum punishment of 6 months in prison, plus 40 lashes! Apparently, diplomatic efforts have paid off (to some extent). Ms Gibbons has been sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation.

Not content to leave well enough alone in the face of world-wide shock, the Sudanese have in the past 24 hours carried out a massive demonstration in the heart of beautiful downtown Khartoum-demanding the execution of the British lady as just punishment for insulting Islam. Of course, it should be pointed out that such a demonstration in Sudan (which is under dictatorial rule) would not be possible without the consent-if not the direction of the government. So now the world is treated to the usual scene of outraged Muslim mobs in the streets shouting "Death to All!" (or something like that).

First of all, what kind of country is this Sudan, where a 54-year-old woman would even have to spend 15 days in jail for such an "offense"? Well, for starters, this is the same Sudan where a quarter of a million people have been slaughtered in the Darfur region by killers supported by the government-an atrocity that continues as we speak. This is one of the most odious regimes in the world today.

Then we must ask: what kind of mentality leads people to demand death for naming a teddy bear Mohammed? How about a barbaric 7th Century mentality?

I am not a Brit, but if I were, I would be demanding that my government break off relations and all aid to such a nation. This is not the first outrage that the UK has swallowed at the hands of a 4th rate banana republic. Rememember Idi Amin's Uganda? Remember the murder of a British policewoman by riflefire from the Libyan Embassy in London? Remember the British sailors held hostage by Iran? Whatever happened to the Britain of Margaret Thatcher? I remember when Argentina seized the Falkland Islands from the Brits, and Thatcher sent in the troops to take them back by force. Sadly, the Brits are bending over backwards to placate radical Islam-even in their own country.

And what about the so-called moderate Muslims? Why aren't other Muslim governments speaking out against their Sudanese brethren for bringing further embarassment to Islam? Are British Muslims demonstrating against the Sudanese treatment of a British subject in the name of Islam? Well, probably not since they prefer to wave banners reading, "Behead those who insult Islam!"

Frankly, I am up to here with the sight of Muslim mobs all over the world jumping up and down, shaking their fists, burning other nations' flags and demanding death to people they don't like. It is high time that Muslims join the 21st Century and start acting like civilized people instead of 7th Century barbarians. As for the so-called moderate Muslims, it is past time to stand up to the crazies and re-establish Islam as a religion worthy of respect.

As for Ms Gibbons, I pray for her safe return back to civilization. Sudan does not deserve the help of people like her. Her experience should be a lesson to other westerners who feel compelled to go and serve people who don't appreciate it.

gary fouse