Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Teacher Arrested Over Teddy Bear in Sudan

A classroom full of whimsical six and seven year olds got together and democratically picked a name for the Teddy bear brought in by the teacher. For the school project, the little tykes picked the name Mohammad and were asked to keep diaries of the teddy's journeys as it ventured home with each kid for an overnight stay. The name chosen is common throughout Islamic culture. After the deed was done, the bear named, the police make a stunning decision, arresting the first graders' British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, for a crime against the Sundanese state, specifically Article 125, which references the law about insulting religion and inciting hatred. Gibbons' teaching colleagues were in a state of shock as they watched her being carted off from Unity High School.

In Khartoum, Sudan it is interpreted as against the law to name (the teddy bear) that in specific. The teacher was in country for less than four months. If convicted, she faces 40 lashes ( a real whip that leaves scars is used, not wet noodles) a year in jail or face a fine of an indeterminable amount.

Although there is no ban in the Koran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, likenesses are considered highly offensive by Muslims.

Gibbons had been working at the school -- popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates -- since August, after leaving her position as deputy head teacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer, said Boulos.

He said Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.

Classmates took turns taking the teddy bear home with them, accompanied by a diary with the bear's name written in the front of it, said Boulos, who heads the private school, which has been shut down since the controversy came to light.

Not surprisingly the terrible way the adults handled this is jeopardizing foreign relations between Britain and Sudan. A small student, Mohammad, stepped forward to accept responsibility that the name was his idea. Embassies are being flooded with calls and some callers are not showing any restraint or British reserve in expressing their outrage. Sudanese diplomats have reaped a whirlwind that is just ramping up. Sudan already held in the lowest repute from many of the western world, has yet to live down its housing and quartering of the pre-9/11 wanted criminal Osama bin Laden before he fled to lead those other low level small thought police and fashion thugs of the Taliban in Pakistan. The Sudanese Ambassador to London was summoned by Britain's Foreign Secretary. Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is working all diplomatic channels to try and secure the 54 year old former Liverpool resident's release. Gibbons just finished her second night in the local prison.

Sudan is Africa's largest geographic country and one of the world's poorest economies. Arabic is the language and Islam is the dominant religion. They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan is a tale of life in Sudan being the least of these amongst the most terrible circumsatnces. It is an inspirational story outlining what is in the realm of the possible with so very little. It is written by Alphonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Benjamin Ajak in collaboration with Judy A. Bernstein.

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