According to the news reports, the Gibbons fiasco boiled down to this in the end:
In September, Gibbons allowed her students at a private Khartoum school to pick their favorite name for a teddy bear as part of a project on animals. Most of them chose Muhammad, a popular name for males in Sudan as well as the name of Islam's founding prophet.
Sudan enforces strict Islamic sharia law that makes it a crime to insult the Islamic religion. (“British Teacher Released in Sudan”).
There are always lessons to be learned from these things, especialy for folks like me who like to examine international tragedies and ask, "How is this our fault?"
In this instance, I think this has to make us all more aware of the tragedy of the underfunded Sudanese madrasses, which clearly have failed in their educational mission to teach 7-year-olds every imaginable example of what could be insulting to the Prophet. Ignorance is such a terrible thing. And if anybody anywhere on Earth is underfunded, it's our fault.
And if only these little kids had known the don't-insult-the-Prophet rule, then the already-suffering nation of Sudan would not have had its heart broken in this way.
What I mean is that it was the little tykes, wasn't it, (and most of the males among them named “Muhammad” themselves), who came up with the gravely blasphemous idea for naming their class teddy bear.
All Ms. Gibbons did was allow them to do it. (Okay, she did also happen to be British, an infidel, and a woman, three more things Allah takes a dim view of.)
Oh, and did I say that was "all" she did? I make it sound as if it was nothing at all!
But getting back to the first-degree teddy naming incident, it's unclear how these young folks had ever reached the age of 7 without knowing just how offensive to the Prophet naming a stuffed animal for him was going to be. The enormity of the thing certainly seemed self-evident to their parents, to the Sharia judges, to the police, and to the mobs running around with swords in the streets of Khartoum calling for English blood. Why hadn't they passed this beautiful knowledge onto their own kids?
At 7, these pupils are certainly plenty old enough to understand basic moral absolutes, and even some things about self-preservation. By 7, for instance, you already know not to touch a hot stove, or not to run in front of cars, or that it's wrong to kill your neighbor unless in obedience to an official fatwah.
But if only these little Muhammads had known more about their Namesake, and especially about how touchy he was about his followers guarding his own name and dignity (even 14 centuries after his death), then maybe they would have abstained from giving the teddy that name.
Either that, or the kids would have known enough to rise up themselves and slay Ms. Gibbons for letting them do it.
Nor would that have made one particle less sense than what actually happened.