We’re outraged that they’re outraged

Her students chose the name Muhammad for the teddy bear and she assented; now the British teacher inTeddy
Sudan faces a potential punishment of 40 lashes. Welcome to another episode of "As the world goes insane."

The country’s top Muslim clerics pressed the government to ensure
that the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, is punished, comparing her action to
author Salman Rushdie’s "blasphemies" against the Prophet Muhammad.

The
charges against Gibbons angered the British government, which urgently
summoned the Sudanese ambassador to discuss the case. British and
American Muslim groups also criticized the decision.

Gibbons, 54,
was arrested at her home in Khartoum on Sunday after some parents of
her students accused her of naming the bear after Islam’s prophet.
Muhammad is a common name among Muslim men, but the parents saw
applying it to a toy animal as an insult. [Link]

An insult? Someone needs to tell them that a teddy bear is considered a cuddly, lovable toy. It’s not like she gave the name ‘Muhammad’ to a red monster with a big orange nose. (No offense, Elmo. You’re pretty lovable too.)

Sudanese Prosecutor-General Salah Eddin Abu Zaid said Gibbons was
charged with inciting religious hatred and her case would be referred
to courts Thursday.

If convicted, she faces up to 40 lashes, six
months in jail and a fine, said Abdul-Daem Zumrawi, an undersecretary
at the Justice Ministry. [Link]

You know who deserves 40 lashes? The parents who made a case of this. All they needed to do was tell Gibbons they were offended and, as British MP  Boris Johnson suggests, "she could have apologised; she could have instantly changed
the name of the mascot to Paddington, or some other name less offensive
to Muslims. She could have called it Aloysius,
like the chap in Evelyn Waugh, and though Aloysius is a pretty emetic
name for a teddy bear, no one would have suggested locking her up."

Muslim leaders in Britain and the U.S. strongly rejected the charges against Gibbons.

"This
is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense," said Muhammad Abdul
Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. He said there
was "clearly no intention" by the teacher to "deliberately insult the
Islamic faith."

The American Islamic Congress also criticized the
decision. "The Sudanese government’s ridiculous case trivializes the
feelings of Muslims around the world," said Nasser Weddady, the
organization’s civil rights outreach director. [Link]

It may come as a shock to some people, but not all Muslims think alike. Most of them are just like you and I: sane.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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