Monday, December 03, 2007

Teddy Beargate Resolution

The Teddy Bear teacher was pardoned and released early. Good news, of course. But then again, she was jailed for eight days before the government got off its duff.

Dr Khalid al-Mubarak, of the Sudanese embassy in London, said he hoped the affair would not damage relations between Sudan and the UK.

"I think this is the correct resolution - pardoned and released early," he told BBC News.

"The word pardoned also means that the original mistake has been - not forgotten - but behind us now."

Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain told BBC News 24 that the whole saga had been very damaging for the image of the Muslim faith.

"Each time we have stories like these, that distort what Islam stands for or misrepresents what the compassion of Muslim law stands for, then we have repercussions and people begin to feel that Islam has no place in modern society...

"I have not come across one single Muslim in our country who has supported what has happened.''

President Omar al-Bashir had been under pressure from Sudanese hardliners to ensure Mrs Gibbons served her full sentence.

There had been a protest, and calls for a retrial and for the sentence to be increased.

BBC Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy said the row over Mrs Gibbons had strained relations between Britain and Sudan - and, beyond that, between the West and Islam.

And even if intervention by two prominent British Muslims had succeeded in limiting the damage, the fact remained that damage had been done, he added.

No shit it's been damaged. As if people really needed one more reason to dislike Sudan. Congrats, guys, you've gone from genocidal psychos to moronic boobs. Great improvement.

...thanks to the Gillian Gibbons saga, Sudan has managed to transform its public image from pariah state to something approaching a laughing stock.

The carefully stage-managed pardoning of Mrs Gibbons by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir will have satisfied few within his divided government.

Moderates who want better relations with the West will want to know why Sudan's president did not intervene sooner.

Sudan's foreign ministry has been shown to be an open but ultimately powerless limb of the administration.

Sudanese officials reassured British diplomats that the case would be dismissed right up to the moment that Mrs Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in detention.

That disconnect is an experience shared by UN officials who spent months negotiating with Sudanese diplomats the arrival of a new peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Those talks have since been shown to count for little. Security agencies have impounded equipment, denied permission for night flights and refused to grant land for military bases.

President al-Bashir is a military man, and Mrs Gibbons's detention has shown clearly once again that power rests firmly with security forces and the interior and defence ministries.

Check out this article in the Sudan Tribune for some eye-opening theories on why the government thought it could play both sides of the fence on this one. Money quote:

Ultimately, many in Sudan think that poor Ms Gibson has been used in a blackmailing strategy by the Sudanese authorities who in reality are not concerned about Prophet Mohammed or anything else except sustaining their power in Sudan and consolidating their earthly gains. Many think this whole affair is a ploy to arouse ordinary Muslim sentiment in Sudan and around the world so that the regime can find a breathing space from its domestic problems, specially the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

However, the whole affair seem to have backfired. The British Muslim Council called it “a disgraceful decision and defies common sense". The Federation of Muslim Organizations, Leicestershire (UK) in their statement says, “...[the] only thing we can do to prevent some Muslims making a complete mockery out of Islam is to disassociate ourselves from such acts done in the name of Islam”.

The very little support regionally or internationally that the Sudanese government received in this affair showed how isolated and despised they are – even by their own fellow Muslims. Most importantly, the majority of ordinary Sudanese Muslims (excluding the low-paid professional protesters who appeared on TV on Friday) seem to receive the teddy affair with the sheer contempt it deserves.

Also good for some good quotes from moderate Muslims.

Of course, some people are using this disgrace as an opportunity to label all Muslims as crazy psychotics.

The kernel of truth at the heart of Islam is there: If you are an "unbeliever," then anything of which Islam disproves is punishable by death. They decide.

We've heard it before, "convert or die." Or at the very least, do everything the way Islam demands – or die.

If we don't see it that way, then what do we to make of vicious, threatening mobs reacting to an innocuous and innocent action of a British teacher and her 7-year-old students?

If we're to walk the same paths we've been pushed into, particularly since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, we're to consider mobs as just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as we were told after cartoons in Danish newspapers last year sparked violence across several continents, causing damage, injuries and death – those mobs represent just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as when a speech of Pope Benedict was deliberately taken out of context to reflect on Islam, leading to violent demonstrations and mobs demanding his death – we're told to consider it just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as in the premeditated vicious street attack and killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh because Islamists didn't like the subject matter of his films – we're told to consider it just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as in the death threats issued against people because Islamists don't like what they say or think – consider author Salman Rushdie, journalist Oriana Fallaci and Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. There are many others.

Considering the pattern, it's hard not to consider these threats and this violence just the normal, peaceful religion of Islam in action.

There's a similarity in all these events – and so many more it would take pages to list them –and that is when there is a perceived slight to Islam; the reaction is mob violence, destruction and murder – always justified by Islam, the religion of peace.

This despite the fact that British Muslims were protesting her arrest, and that two Muslim MPs went to Sudan to broker her release. Hmmm.

Another nutjob, perhaps anticipating that this saga of stupidity was about to end, leaped at the chance to get his two cents worth in:

An American evangelist has jumped into the fray over the fate of a British teacher facing calls for death over a teddy bear named "Muhammad."

Bill Keller, host of LivePrayer, has posted a video on YouTube featuring a pink, toy pig named Muhammad after the Muslim prophet.

The pig goes on to call Muhammed a child molester and murderer, and then talks about his conversion to Christianity, coincidentally, after going to Bill Keller's website. Wow, slamming Islam AND promoting your crappy devotionals? Simply brilliant, Bill. We haven't seen this kind of impressive melding of theology and marketing since Luther started handing out coupons for discount mochas along with his Treatises.

Of course, this is the kind of well-crafted wit we've come to expect from Bill Keller (how nuts do you have to be to make Bill O'Reilly seem reasonable?)


Sylvia said...

I still don't even understand what the hell was going on with this shit. I mean. EVERYONE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD IS NAMED MOHAMMED. You know?

Aliyah said...

"This despite the fact that British Muslims were protesting her arrest, and that two Muslim MPs went to Sudan to broker her release. Hmmm." - Two enthusiastic thumbs up to you for noticing!

As I'm sure you're already aware, not all of "us Muslims" want to lynch and lash scared middle-aged schoolteachers. Here's some common garden-variety Muslims' views on the teddy-gate saga:

Thankfully, that poor woman has now been released.

aliyah said...

PS I found your blog through your comments here:

and couldn't resist commenting. I found the above blog through a google search on hijab (go figure, huh?)


Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

My own personal theory is that the kids probably named the bear after someone's brother, or possible a favorite soccer player.

Friar Yid said...

Actually in one of the links I found it mentions that they named the bear after the most popular kid in the class, who may have also been the one to suggest his own name in the first place. Meaning, apparently, that if the classroom had been somewhere in California we might be hearing about some teddy named Amber or Dakota.