Blasphemy Bear: Coda

November 30, 2007

Yesterday we heard that the nasty teddy bear naming British teacher had been charged with “insulting Islam” and “inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious belief”. Now we have what looks like the closing chapters of this sad and frightening story:

A British teacher accused of insulting Muslims after her class called a teddy bear Mohammad will be deported after spending 15 days in jail, a defence lawyer says.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, “was found guilty of insulting religion and the sentence is 15 days (in jail) and deportation,” defence lawyer Ali Ajib said after the trial in a Khartoum courtroom, which lasted less than a day.

I’m not entirely sure whether to be glad she appears to have gotten off so lightly (depending on the conditions of her imprisonment) or be utterly enraged that she is being punished at all.

Robert Boulos, head of Unity High School where Gibbons worked, said: “We are happy with the verdict. It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and attention.”
He added: “We will be very sad to lose her.”

Asked what he thought of the verdict, the head of Gibbons’s defence team, Kamal al-Jazouli, said: “It was not bad.”

So to an average citizen of the country, the verdict looks fair? I think that is really frightening.

I’m utterly disappointed with this decision. We have been calling on the Sudanese authorities to show leniency, that this was a case of an innocent oversight, a misunderstanding, and there was no need for this to … be escalated,” said Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, the country’s largest Muslim organisation.”We are very hopeful that perhaps the appeals process will be more successful.”

“The question that I would want the judiciary there and the authorities to ponder over is: How does this help the cause of Islam? What kind of message and image are we portraying about our religion and our culture?”

Unfortunately, I suspect that the point of view of the Sudanese judiciary is that they are helping the cause of Islam. Sad and disappointing they think their god needs such help, and utterly unjust for this poor woman who is paying the cost.

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