A Wrongfully Named Teddy

January 31, 2008
Cries of hundreds of protesters rang through central Martyrs Square this past week. The protesters shouted in a passionate symphony, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.” One would think a horrible crime was committed for such powerful words to echo throughout the streets of Sudan. However, to find out that such hatred was aimed towards a teacher, who mistakenly allowed her students to name a teddy-bear Muhammad, is sincerely shocking. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons of Britain, certainly could not foresee that death threats would soon to be aimed at her. “I went out there to have an adventure, and got a bit more than I bargained for,” exclaims Gibbons. She is most certainly right, as Gibbons is now serving 15 days jail time and luckily was able to escape 40 lashes, the normal punishment under this maximum penalty. With due respect to the Muslim religion, and despite the fact that the name of the prophet Muhammad is sacred to the Muslims, shouldn’t the ignorance of Gibbons be overlooked? Even many Muslim organizations and leaders are speaking out against such punishment. After all, how can wrongfully naming a teddy-bear result in a maximum sentence for Gibbons? That’s as absurd as throwing the teddy-bear in jail for accepting to be called such a name.

I don’t know about you, but protesting with clubs, knives, and axes sounds rather extreme to me. Many Muslims are saying that Gibbons purposely insulted the name of the prophet Muhammad and will not accept apologies from Gibbons. The protesting Muslims see death as the only solution to the controversial issue. “Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion,” states Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known figure in Sudan. “This is an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad,” he said. If I remember correctly, I don’t remember Gibbons stating that she traveled to Sudan to teach the children hatred of Muhammad. Although Gibbons may have been ignorant about the Muslim religion, she certainly did not conspire to disrespect the Muslim religion. One may accuse Gibbons of being rude or disrespectful, but that is absolutely no reason she should be sentenced to jail under the maximum penalty. Not only are the charges outrageous, but even Muslims of Britain are declaring such punishment absolutely disproportional.

“One of the good things is the U.K. Muslims who've condemned the charge as completely out of proportion. In the past, people have been a bit upset when different atrocities have happened and there hasn't been much voice in the U.K. Islamic population, whereas with this, they've quickly condemned it,” states a British student studying the controversy. This research clearly shows the overwhelming opinion of most Muslims, that of the charges being seriously callous. Such well-known Muslim organizations including The Ramadhan Foundation, The Muslim Council of Britain, and The Muslim Public Affairs Committee are referring to the case as a “gross overreaction”, “abominable and defies common sense”, and “gravely disproportionate.” Many would agree that this incident should have been considered a mishap and should have been overlooked as an act of ignorance, due to a lack of understanding of the Muslim religion. Common sense on the part of the Sudanese government should have allowed them to view Gibbons as an outsider who unintentionally disrespected the Muslim religion. However, such sense and sympathy was not shown towards Gibbons, and now she must face the overwhelmingly disproportional charges against her.
It is blatantly evident to me that Gibbons most certainly should be acquitted of all charges. Such a misunderstanding should unquestionably be overlooked, as Gibbons was most certainly unaware of the disrespect she was expressing towards the Muslim religion. After all, everyone makes mistakes, and how can Gibbons learn from her mistake if she is sent to an early grave by belligerent protesters? Numerous Muslim organizations have condemned such a sentence, as common sense has led them to understand Gibbons’ ignorance. To believe that such chaos can arise from wrongfully naming a teddy-bear is unbelievable. I’m sure Gibbons would have gladly renamed the teddy bear if she knew was going to be sent to jail for her action. There is simply no true lesson to be learned from this incident, as common sense could have swiftly overruled the jail sentence. Gibbons should most definitely be set free, as she did not plan to wreak havoc in Sudan. I think only one valuable lesson can be learned from this preposterous decision: the next time you decide to name your stuffed-bear, it might be better if you just call it Teddy.

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SloopyMcCoy said...
Dec. 20, 2008 at 9:47 pm
Great! Every time I read about this I get mad about how horrible religion is and what it does to people in our world. Thanks for writing an amazing article.
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