Teddy Bear Blasphemy Case
The end of November has witnessed the emergence of yet another international blasphemy case, which revolves around a Sudanese teddy bear and a British school-teacher Gillian Gibbons working at Unity High School in Sudan. She was arrested by the authorities under the accusation of insulting Islam and its Prophet by allowing her class to name a teddy bear as ‘Muhammad’.
From BBC News:
From BBC News:
Ms Gibbons, who joined the school in August, asked a seven-year-old girl to bring in her teddy bear and asked the class to pick names for it, he said.
"They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad," Mr Boulos said, adding that she then had the children vote on a name.
Twenty out of the 23 children chose Muhammad as their favourite name.
Mr Boulos said each child was then allowed to take the bear home at weekends and told to write a diary about what they did with it.
He said the children's entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a message which read, "My name is Muhammad."
From New York Times:
The government said that when some parents saw the book, they complained to the authorities. On Sunday, Ms. Gibbons was arrested. Several Muslim clerics in Sudan called for her to be whipped, while British diplomats said that she had made an innocent mistake and that she should be cleared.
Ms. Gibbons went to trial on Thursday, and after an all-day proceeding, the judge seemed to reach for a compromise by finding her guilty of insulting Islam but handing her a relatively light sentence. The government said she would be deported as soon as she was released.
It seems that Ms. Gibbons and the teddy bear became enmeshed in the larger struggle between the Sudanese government, which routinely accuses its Western critics of being anti-Islamic, and European and American officials pressing for an end to the crisis in Darfur.
The school has been closed until January for the safety of pupils and staff as reprisals are feared. On November 28, 2007, it was reported that the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, had been formally charged under Section 125 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, for "insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs". This carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment, a fine, or 40 lashes.
On November 29, 2007, Gibbons was found guilty of "insulting religion", one of the three counts against her, and was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment and deportation. The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organisation of British Muslim groups, has said the punishment is "completely unjustified" and has said it is "appalled", and called on the Sudanese government to intervene.
On November 30, protesters demanded Gibbon's execution after imams denounced her during Friday prayers. During the march, chants of "Shame, shame on the UK", "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad" were heard. However, the authenticity of protesters has been questioned. Witnesses have reported that the government is inciting protests by using government employees to start said protests.