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Old 11-29-2007, 02:52 PM   #16
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Associated Press, Nov 29, 2:04 PM EST

KHARTOUM — British teacher Gillian Gibbons was convicted of insulting Islam for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad and sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation from Sudan, one of her defense lawyers said Thursday. Ali Mohammed Ajab, of Gibbons' defense team, said she was found guilty of "insulting the faith of Muslims in Sudan" under Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code, a lighter conviction than the original charge of inciting religious hatred. A charge later confirmed by a judge leaving the closed court session.
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Colleague prompted teacher trial

The Guardian (UK), November 29

The British teacher facing 40 lashes for naming a teddy bear Muhammad was reported to police by an office worker at her Sudan school, it has emerged...The judge...ordered the prosecution to produce the person who originally complained against Mrs Gibbons and she was revealed as Sara Khawad, an office assistant at the Unity High School.

Earlier reports said pupils' parents had objected to the teddy, but school director Robert Boulos said he had been told more recently by police the complaint came from a member of staff. "I would be surprised if any parents complained to the ministry without coming to me first, and no one came to me," he said, insisting that the school's parents support Gibbons.

Episcopalian Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, Mrs Gibbons' employer, also outside the courtroom, said he was there "as a witness to testify that she never intended to insult any religion" and dismissed rumours the school had fired her.
^ I'd read an article a couple days back in which another teacher from the school raised suspicions that sour grapes over an unrelated earlier incident involving Gibbons and another school employee might have been the true source and motivation for this complaint, can't recall now which paper I read that in though.
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The New York Times, Nov. 28

The charges were made as Sudanese government officials continued to resist efforts to deploy peacekeepers in Darfur and accused several Western countries of being anti-Islamic. On Tuesday, the British ambassador to the United Nations asked the Security Council to address warrants against a Sudanese official and a militia leader accused of war crimes in Darfur, a troubled region of western Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died. Some Sudanese analysts wondered if charges had been filed against the teacher in retaliation.

The case started in September when Ms. Gibbons, who is from Liverpool, began a project on animals and asked her class to suggest a name for a teddy bear. Unity School, where she taught, educates Christian and Muslim students, many of them the children of wealthy Sudanese families and foreign diplomats. It has been closed until further notice because of the controversy.
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Old 11-29-2007, 03:45 PM   #17
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I guess we can all empathize with an English speaking westerner.

and we can get upset and pass judgments on other cultures.


Well, this is completely over blown in my opinion.


This woman is teaching in Sudan and ignorant of the Religion and Culture?

If the children said lets play doctor and examine each other

would that be a reasonable defense?


I am not surprised Islam feels disrespected by the West.


The 15 days and deportation are doing her a favor.

She should not be teaching there if she is this ignorant of the customs and culture.
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Old 11-29-2007, 05:04 PM   #18
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So she should be jailed and/or lashed?

What if someone from the Sudan who is a Muslim came to teach in the US in a Christian school and "disrespected their culture" in a similar way-should they be punished? They might be ignorant of same here, so they shouldn't be teaching here? I'm not in favor of disrespecting anyone's religious beliefs and culture but I don't think that was her intention, not from what I have read. Especially if there were sour grapes involved with another school employee and this was used against her for that reason.

My feelings about it have nothing to do with her being an English speaking Westerner, I merely think it's overblown on their part. A woman who is raped can be punished by some Muslims but just don't name a teddy bear Muhammed. Oh yeah, she disrespected her culture too. Her fault.

Also the students chose the name, partly because it's also the name of the most popular kid in class. So they disrespected their own culture too and should be punished, right?
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:40 PM   #19
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I have yet to read an article on this case which gave me the impression that yes indeed, a classroom teddy bear named Muhammad after a classmate would undoubtedly gravely offend most Sudanese Muslims (let alone most Muslims in general). Certainly it's been the case that those of Gibbons' fellow teachers, her students, and her students' parents who've spoken to the English press, several of them Sudanese Muslims, have made it clear that they found the charges unwarranted, some of them in quite strong terms despite the threats to the school from the government ("indefinitely" shutting it down, requiring them to run an apology in the local newspapers). And as was revealed in the courtroom, none of the parents had in fact complained.

No way to know for sure without being there, of course, and it does seem to be the case that some radical groups, such as the men who attacked Gibbons' lawyer, agreed that associating the name of Muhammad with a (toy) animal ought to be considered a crime. Perhaps theirs is a widely shared view--in a culture where animals hold very low status, it wouldn't be surprising if the idea of a "teddy bear" seemed bizarre to begin with, and the idea of naming one after a revered religious figure perverse--but, that doesn't seem to have been the reaction of the parents whose children actually named, took turns bringing home, and wrote about said toy.

Also, having spent some time teaching in a non-Western culture myself, and having helped out with orientation of visiting professors from all over the world back here, I find the idea that a newly arrived foreign teacher should be expected to have an exhaustive insider's knowledge of all the possible cultural minefields s/he might stumble across naive. Cultural orientation for teachers and other service professionals is almost always a rather 'crash course' affair--you get a few recommended books to read on your own, maybe a few days up to a few weeks of intensive guided introduction to your new environment with the emphasis being mostly on local pedagogical culture, and beyond that, probably only the broadest and/or most commonly encountered 'Big No-Nos' stressed to you before you're expected to hit the ground running, hopefully with a designated advisor at your school to troubleshoot and counsel as you proceed. Generally it is simply taken for granted that of course you will make an embarrassing faux pas here and there, maybe a student complains, your advisor or other appropriate figure politely takes you aside, points out your mistake and suggests how to make amends and/or avoid repeating it, and you apply their advice then move right on along. A composition exercise involving a teddy bear, with a name to be voted on by the students, doesn't exactly sound like the sort of thing that would occur to the average administrator or advisor to anticipate and offer special pointers for. And 'animals have low status here, therefore a child's toy animal should not be named Muhammad, even if some students are and they like the idea' doesn't sound like the sort of connection that would likely occur to a recently arrived teacher from a wholly different culture.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:55 PM   #20
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Thank you, MrsSpringsteen and yolland . Well said.

Yeah, believe me, I would never, ever disrespect another culture-I'd study up on the customs and laws as much as possible ahead of time, and if I did happen to upset somebody, I would hope they would tell me they were offended, and then I would apologize and change my behavior.

I just think the reaction to this from some people is a bit overblown, personally. And even so, okay, some people may be offended, fine. They definitely have that right. Different things will be offensive to different people. But to punish her for it? I don't agree with that.

Angela
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Old 11-29-2007, 08:24 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep
I guess we can all empathize with an English speaking westerner. and we can get upset and pass judgments on other cultures.
Isn't it possible that the Sudanese government chose to pursue this as stongly as they have specifically because this woman is an English-speaking Westerner???

I agree that when living/visiting in a foreign country that one should do their best to take a crash course in "What Not to Do". But as others have pointed out, with so many possible pitfalls, is it any wonder she did something to cause offense? Which technically doesn't stand true - she didn't name the bear, her class did. And you'd think if anyone would know what's offensive & what isn't it would be those practicing the religion. I mean, I realize we're talking about children, but if this was such a huge insult, then wouldn't even a grade-schooler be aware it was a no-no???
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Old 11-30-2007, 10:22 AM   #22
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters brandishing swords and sticks gathered outside Khartoum's presidential palace Friday to vent their anger against a British teacher jailed for allowing children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

About 600 Islamic demonstrators piled out of mosques, chanting: "By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammed." Some of the protesters demanded the teacher's execution, according to The Associated Press.

The agency reports that some chanted: "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."


The decision by a Sudanese court to jail Gillian Gibbons late Thursday was widely criticized outside Sudan as too harsh, with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying he was "extremely disappointed" the charges were not dismissed.

Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a prominent cleric and hardliner, told worshippers Friday at the Martyrs Mosque: "Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," according to AP. But he did not urge worshippers to protest.

In leaflets distributed earlier this week by Muslim groups and seen by CNN, the protesters promised a "popular release of anger" at demonstrations called for Friday.

The leaflets condemned Gibbons as an "infidel" and accused her of "the pollution of children's mentality" by her actions.

The teacher was convicted of insulting religion but cleared of two other charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, Ali Ajeb, her lawyer said. Watch latest developments in the caseVideo

Ajeb said they were planning to appeal the sentence, which runs from the date she was first detained, November 25.

Gibbons, 54, is being held in a woman's prison in the Omdurman district of Khartoum and she will be deported at the end of her prison term, British consular officials in the city told CNN.

Embassy staff said they were giving the teacher, from the northern English city of Liverpool, full consular assistance. VideoWatch a report on reactions to the verdict »

Omer Mohammed Ahmed Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador to Britain, was summoned for a second time to meet with the British foreign secretary late Thursday after the court's ruling.

Miliband also spoke to the Sudanese acting foreign minister for 15 minutes on the telephone during the meeting, the British Foreign Office said.

"Our priority now is to ensure Ms. Gibbons' welfare and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her," Miliband said in a statement.

The Foreign Office said there would be further talks with the Sudanese government Friday.

Gibbons was arrested Sunday after she asked her class of seven-year-olds in Khartoum to name the toy as part of a school project, the Foreign Office said.

She had faced charges under Article 125 of Sudan's constitution, the law relating to insulting religion and inciting hatred.

She could have faced a sentence of 40 lashes, a fine or jail term of up to a year, according to the Foreign Office, which expressed Britain's dissatisfaction with the verdict.

British newspapers condemned Gibbons' conviction, with The Daily Telegraph calling for the recall of the British ambassador from Khartoum and sanctions against the heads of the Sudanese government.

In an editorial the tabloid newspaper, The Sun, said Gibbons' jailing was a "grotesque insult to Islam" and called Gibbons "an innocent abroad."

Four vans filled with riot police were stationed outside the courthouse at Thursday's hearing, but there were no signs of street disturbances or protests.

Staff from Gibbons' school, including Robert Boulos, the head of Unity High School, were present.

Boulos said he was "horrified" when he found out it was a member of his own staff who complained, not a parent as originally thought.

Defense counsel later confirmed that the complaint came from Sarah Khawad, a secretary at the school.


Gibbons has 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, Boulos said.

He said Gibbons 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.
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Old 11-30-2007, 12:07 PM   #23
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Old 11-30-2007, 12:09 PM   #24
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they sound like a real enlightened bunch over there...
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Old 11-30-2007, 01:37 PM   #25
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Quote:
New York Times, December 1

...Despite the display of outrage, witnesses said that many of the protesters were government employees who had been ordered to demonstrate, and that aside from a large gathering outside the presidential palace, most of Khartoum was quiet. Imams across the city did bring up the controversial case in sermons after Friday Prayers. But few called for violence.

...It seems that Ms. Gibbons and the teddy bear got sucked into 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. Earlier this month, Sudanese officials said that peacekeepers from Scandinavia could not serve in Darfur, the troubled region of western Sudan, because of what happened two years ago, when several Scandinavian newspapers published controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

United Nations officials have said that the Sudanese government was simply looking for ways to block or delay the deployment of an expanded peacekeeping force to Darfur. This week, United Nations officials said that unless the Sudanese government starts cooperating, the expanded mission may not be possible.
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Old 11-30-2007, 03:35 PM   #26
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I'm curious as to why the teacher didn't seem to think that it might be impolitic of her to allow the name for the bear.

Muhammed is fairly common in many Islamic nations, but I somehow doubt that naming toy bears after a religious figure is a good idea. There are very, very fanatical people who will see it as poking fun at the religion itself. There is an edict against making physical representations of any sort of God's creations out there. Some will see this as turning the founder of the Faith into an idol.

I'm not saying it's right, but it's there. I'm also not saying what they did was right, either, but honestly, I'd rather have her out of there lest something worse happen to her. I can only hope nothing worse happens in the time she has there.
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Old 11-30-2007, 04:00 PM   #27
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Originally posted by Hinder
I'm curious as to why the teacher didn't seem to think that it might be impolitic of her to allow the name for the bear.

Muhammed is fairly common in many Islamic nations, but I somehow doubt that naming toy bears after a religious figure is a good idea. There are very, very fanatical people who will see it as poking fun at the religion itself. There is an edict against making physical representations of any sort of God's creations out there. Some will see this as turning the founder of the Faith into an idol.

I'm not saying it's right, but it's there. I'm also not saying what they did was right, either, but honestly, I'd rather have her out of there lest something worse happen to her. I can only hope nothing worse happens in the time she has there.
You seem to have approached these events with objectivity.

I don't disagree with anything you wrote.

As I said before, they are doing her a favor by deporting her.
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Old 11-30-2007, 07:57 PM   #28
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Awful situation.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:09 AM   #29
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Originally posted by nathan1977
Since the children chose the name, shouldn't they be the ones in jail?
Good question.

She opened the door.

They crossed the threshold.

Are any of those kids dead yet?

They must have been eaten at this point.

Who knows what a child might think if allowed the freedom of thought.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:15 AM   #30
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Originally posted by deep
As I said before, they are doing her a favor by deporting her.
You know, I think this thread is the first time I've ever vehemently disagreed with anything you've posted. Pretty ridiculous.
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