I've been itching to rant about the absurdity of the so-called "teddy bear affair' in the Sudan, and on the plight of this unfortunate English teacher. Yes, I know...it has nothing to do with travel or editorial photography, but it has a lot to do with being opinionated as I am.
The events in Khartoum are absurd and insane, and if it wasn't for Gillian Gibbons being in a scummy Sudanese jail for a week or so, it would be farcical. The thought that naming a teddy bear Mohamed (which, by the way, was done by Ms Gibbons' students) would insult Islam is just risible and ridiculous. This is not comparable to the publication of caricatures of the Prophet of Islam in a couple of Danish - followed by a few European- newspapers. That incident was insulting, demeaning and certainly done with the intention of fomenting hatred against Muslims in Europe. In that case, Muslims were right in protesting and demonstrating, as well as boycotting Danish products (which badly damaged Danish exports). In the case of the "teddy-bear", the Sudanese government and its ignorant cohorts have accomplished nothing but bring ridicule to Islam...it is they who are blasphemous by tarnishing Islam with this ignorant behavior, not Ms Gibbons nor her students. I'm sure that 99.9% of Muslims feel the same way.
Here's the real reason for the Khartoum farce...the Sudanese government has its ongoing problems in Darfur, is facing threats of sanctions from the West and from the United Kingdom, and felt it needed to extract revenge to show its people that it had teeth after all. Nobody said that the Sudanese government was bright or respectable...but the unfortunate Ms Gibbons walked right into the mess.
It's sad to see the Sudanese government's success in provoking a bunch of illiterate ruffians to call for the punishment (and even execution) of Ms Gibbons, and by doing so, has heaped ridicule on a world religion....their own. I know that the Muslim leaders in Britain are voicing their disgust and some have acted at this inanity, but where are the voices and actions of the leaders of the well-known Islamic institutions in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries? Where is the voice of the clerics at Al-Azhar University in Cairo...the repository of Islamic thought and theology? Why don't they travel to Khartoum and put some sense in the Sudanese? Wouldn't that show the world what Islamic leadership ought to be? And while they're at it, they should tell the Sudanese government that its repugnant actions in Darfur are un-Islamic.
And to think that the Muslim world was once one of the most intellectually fertile regions of the world!
I owe my primary and secondary education to teachers from the UK like Ms Gibbons, and I'm sorry she's going through this horrible experience. Hopefully, she will return home to her family safely and promptly.
Update on 12/03/07: It's been reported that Ms Gibbons was granted a "pardon" from the president of Sudan, and was flying home.