No lashes, but 15 days in jail for Gibbons

Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher who let her students name a teddy bear Muhammad, has beenGibbons
convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in prison, after which she’ll be booted out of Sudan. The judge could have sentenced her to 40 lashes and six months in prison, but was apparently swayed by a defense motion requesting him to use part of his brain.

The sentence, which seems intended to appease both sides, has not satisfied anyone, though some are more upset than others.

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday
in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher
convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy
bear "Muhammad."

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup
trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the
teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and
deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

They massed in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential
palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. They did not try
to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour.

"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons’ execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad." [Link]

Asked if he was just as upset about the genocide in Darfur, one of the protesters pondered the question for a moment, then shouted, "Kill her, kill her by firing squad!"

A Muslim cleric at Khartoum’s main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons
during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not
call for protests, however.

"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan.
But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil
Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers. [Link]

They’re thirsty? Perhaps they shouldn’t be trying to dig a grave for Gibbons. Perhaps they should be trying to dig a well.

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Sudanese authorities of "gross overreaction."

"This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It
is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this
most basic of qualities," he said. [Link]

Muhammad sounds upset. But if you ask his family, they’ll tell you that he’s kind and gentle. You might even call him a teddy bear.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and 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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