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Sudan : A british School teacher judged for offending Mohammed
Sudanese divided on the fate of Gillian Gibbons
A british teacher appears before court, this Thursday, at Khartoum, to have allowed her pupils to name their class teddy bear Mohammed. Gillian Gibbons, who it seems acted out of ignorance is particulary being prosecuted for insulting the muslim prophet Mohammed. London and Khartoum are trying to resolve the matter avoiding diplomatic incidents.
Gillian Gibbons appeared shattered, Thursday, in front of the Khartoum court which decides her fate. This british school teacher, accused on Wednesday appeared in court on Thursday for insulting the prophet Mohammed, inciting religious hate and scorn. The case goes back to the month of September, when the shool teacher asked her pupils, aged between six and seven, what name they wanted for their new teddy. The vote was almost unanimous, 20 to 23 kids wanted the teddy bear named Mohammed.
Gillian Gibbons agrees to the vote. She allows the pupils to take turns in a role play with the mascot for an excercise. It was up to them to write down what they do with Mohammed. Finally, all the stories were put together into a story book titled « my name is Mohammed ». Problem. Parents sent complaints to the ministry of education, condemning it as blasphemy. As their religion does not allow any representation of the prophet. The british national was finally arrested last Sunday and questioned. The private school where she taught was closed for fear of reprisals.
Her colleagues said she did not think she was insulting islam, an opinion that some Sudanese share. According to them, apologies from Gillian Gibbon should be enough for her to be forgiven. The english journal The Citizen, however, writes that “the Gibbons case illustrates the daily difficulties non-muslims living in the north of Sudan face (...) who can be arrested, whipped and fined”.
The Muslim Council in Great Britain, on its part, sharply condemned the judiciary process. Secretary general of the council, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari said ”it is a scandalous decision and lacks common sense”. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to insult islam. He called on the Sudanese President Omar el-Béchir, to intervene in this affair without delay to insure the release of Mrs. Gibbons from the shameful judiciary process.
Not everyone was keen on listening, like the committee of ulemas. They advice parents to be certain that their children undergo a proper education conforming to islamic values. Other religious heads think that the fifty four year old did not act out of naïveté and that her act was a calculated plot against islam.
Gillian Gibbons by virtue of article 125 of the penal code, risks a six month prison term, 40 lashes, or a fine. The british authorities declaring surprise and deception are doing everything possible to prevent the conviction of the ex-employee of the Unity High School. The minister for foreign affaires, David Miliband, summoned the Sudanese ambassador in London concerning the case. The very calm Sudanese ambassador qualified the affair as a « storm in a teacup ». He also thinks that Gillian Gibbons will soon be free.
Mrs. Gillian Gibbons has since been sentenced to a 15 day jail sentence.