Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bad news bear

Student defends Briton jailed for insulting Islam
Wednesday Nov 28 07:51 AEDT

A 7-year-old Sudanese student on Tuesday defended the British teacher accused of insulting Islam, saying he had chosen to call a teddy bear Mohammad because it was his own name.

Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old teacher at the Unity High School in Khartoum, was arrested on Sunday after complaints from parents that she had insulted Islam's Prophet by allowing the bear to be named Mohammad. She is facing a third night in jail without being formally charged.

"The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy," the boy said shyly, his voice barely rising above a whisper. "I said Mohammad. I named it after my name," he added.

He said he was not thinking of Islam's Prophet when asked to suggest a name, adding most of the class agreed with his choice.

In a writing exercise students were asked to keep a diary of what they did with the teddy bear. "Some people took the teddy home and took it places with them ... like the swimming pool," the child said.

Mohammad said Gibbons was "very nice" and he would be upset if she never came back to teach. He added Gibbons had not discussed religion nor did she mention the Prophet.

"We studied maths and English and spelling," he said, rubbing his mop of short, curly hair.

Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told Reuters formal charges would be levelled once investigations had been completed.

"(The charges) are under the Sudanese penal code ... insulting religion and provoking the feelings of Muslims," he said.

"These are preliminary — after investigation the final charges will be ascertained," he added.

If charged and convicted of insulting Islam, Gibbons could be sentenced to 40 lashes, six months in prison or a fine, lawyers said.

Given that half the male Arab world is named Mohammad (even the "Justice" Minister has a variant of the name), isn't this a bit bloody stupid?

What's wrong with teddy bears anyway? If anything the bear should feel insulted. I can't remember the last time one issued a fatwah on anyone or married a child bride or declared a jihad.

Maybe all the Mohammads/Muhammads/Mohameds could gather around in a circle and whip each other forty times for daring to have the same name as the Prophet. Jesus!


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