English School teacher Gilliam Gibbons has been charged with “insulting religion, and inciting hatred”, a crime punishable by up to 40 lashes, and six months in prison.
The British government says the foreign secretary has summoned the Sudanese ambassador to discuss the religious hatred charge against the teacher.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman, Michael Ellam, said Miliband would discuss the charge of inciting religious hatred against teacher, Gillian Gibbons. The meeting will take place as soon as possible, the Foreign Office said.
“We denounce this fabricated outrage,” stated Nasser Weddady, the organization’s Civil Rights Outreach Director. “The Sudanese government’s ridiculous case trivializes the feelings of Muslims around the world.”
Earlier today, the Sudanese government charged Gillian Gibbons, a teacher at Unity High School in Khartoum, with insulting religion and inciting hatred for naming a class teddy bear “Muhammad.” She faces up to 40 lashes and six months in prison.
“The sad legacy of the Danish cartoon riots is that we have to speak out immediately when extremists try to provoke clashes over trivial matters,” Weddady explained. “This is not about cultural sensitivities. There is no excuse for someone to be sent to jail and whipped over a teddy bear’s name. Ms. Gibbons needs to be freed at once.”
Jana El-Horr, a Peacebuilding Fellow with the American Islamic Congress, noted that the Sudanese regime is trying to distract attention from the ongoing genocide in Darfur. “Muslims around the world are horrified over the brutal killings in Darfur,” El-Horr explained. “Now the Sudanese regime is trying to rally support by putting on the ‘defender of Islam’ hat. But we won’t be fooled.”
The Teddy Bear Outrage comes public perception of Muslims continues to decline, as documented in a recent Pew Forum poll.
“The Muslim world has much more pressing and urgent problems to deal with than a random teddy bear,” Weddady observed. “This ridiculous case has the potential to further tarnish popular perceptions of Muslims. What’s truly offensive here is the action of the Sudanese regime, which only entrenches the perception of Muslims as hyper-sensitive.”
I’d like to see some Muslim groups in other countries follow the AIC’s lead, and strongly condemn this ridiculous ordeal.
Another Muslim group, The Muslim Council of Britain has also expressed outrage:
“This is disgraceful and defies common sense,” said Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari. “There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith.
“The children in Mrs Gibbons’s class and their parents have all testified as to her innocence in this matter. We call upon the Sudanese President, Umar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Mrs Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal.”