Teacher Found Guilty of Insulting Islam
Posted by shadmia on December 2, 2007
A British teacher Gillian Gibbons, 54, has been arrested, charged and found guilty of inciting hatred and insulting Islam in Sudan. All because she named a teddy bear “Muhammad”. She was charged under article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code. The charge carried a possible penalty of 40 lashes, a fine or six months in jail if convicted. She was sentenced to 15 days in jail and ordered deported afterwards.
Gibbons, 54, who taught at the exclusive British-style Unity high school in Khartoum, had asked her pupils to name the bear as part of a project to teach them about animals. Twenty out of 23 of them chose Mohammad — a popular boy’s name in Sudan, as well as the name of Islam’s Prophet. Gibbons circulated a letter to parents, telling them that the children would be bringing the teddy bear home at weekends as part of the exercise. Two months later, a member of the school staff handed the letter to Sudan’s Ministry of Education. Gibbons was arrested and charged with insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs. During her trial, a weeping Gibbons said she had intended no harm.
The case has caused diplomatic tensions between Britain and the Sudan. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the charges. The Foreign Secretary David Miliband has personally reassured the family of jailed British teacher Gillian Gibbons that he is doing “everything he can” to secure her release. Even Muslims in the British Parliament have expressed support for Gibbons. Lord Ahmed, a member of Britain’s upper House of Parliament, and Baroness Warsi, an opposition Conservative, have visited Mrs Gibbons and said she seemed in good spirits.. The pair have also held a meeting with a Sudanese Government minister, although the outcome of that meeting is unknown.
Gibbons’ son John, said his mother is “bearing up very well” adding that both he and his sister Jessica had spoken to her:
“We both feel a lot better about speaking to my mum. It was nice to hear her voice. She’s bearing up very well. She sounded strong. I’m hoping to speak to her again today.”
There are no plans for the family to travel to Sudan, Mr Gibbons said. “I’m not going over there because we’re hoping it will be resolved sooner rather than later,” he said.
However the mood in Sudan was much more hostile towards Gibbons. She was moved from the Omdurman women’s prison on Friday after thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums, burned pictures of her and demanded her execution. In their mosque sermons Friday, several Muslim clerics harshly denounced Gibbons, saying she had intentionally insulted the prophet, but they not call for protests and said the punishment ordered by the court was sufficient.
Still, after prayers, several thousand people converged on Khartoum’s Martyrs Square, near the presidential palace, and began calling for Gibbons’ execution. Many seemed to be from Sufi groups, religious sects that emphasize reverence for the prophet. Several hundred protesters marched to Unity High School, where Gibbons worked, and chanted outside briefly before heading toward the nearby British Embassy. They were stopped by security forces two blocks from the embassy. The protest dispersed after an hour.
Sudan’s Islamic government, which has long whipped up anti-Western, Muslim hard-line sentiment at home, was balancing between fueling outrage over the case of Gillian Gibbons and containing it. The government does not want to seriously damage ties with Britain, but the show of anger on Friday underlines its stance that Sudanese oppose Western interference.
A lawyer for the British teacher said he expected his client to be pardoned. “I would not be surprised if president of the republic…….dropped this charge,” defense attorney Kamal al-Gizouli told The Associated Press, explaining that only the president has the power to lift Gibbons’ 15 day sentence. After all she has been through Gibbons expressed much more tolerance than she has received:
“One of the things my mum said today was that I don’t want any resentment towards Muslims”