The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon | Issue Archives | Dec 6, 2007
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  • Dec 6-12, 2007
  • Vol. 11, No. 49

Opinion

  • Editorial
  • Next Time, Just Name It "Pooh"

    The international community breathed the proverbial sigh of relief Monday at the news that the Sudanese teddy bear crisis has been defused. Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old British school teacher who was working in the capital of Khartoum, was arrested last week after authorities learned she had allowed her 6- and 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear "Mohammed." (Although "Mohammed" in all its variations is one of the most common boys' names in the world, fundamentalist Muslims regard it as a gross insult to the Prophet to apply the name to an animal - evidently even a stuffed one.) Following a hearing, Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in prison - a ruling that provoked a near-riot in Khartoum by Muslims who wanted her to receive the maximum penalty of a year in prison and 40 lashes. The case turned into a diplomatic cause celébre, with two Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords dispatched to intercede with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. On Monday, al-Bashir announced that Gibbons had been pardoned and would be allowed to return to Britain. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the decision, saying he was glad that "common sense has prevailed." Sudan's ambassador to Britain, Khalid al-Mubarak, also was pleased with the outcome: "[Gibbons] is a teacher who went to teach our children English and she has helped a great deal and I am very grateful. What has happened was a cultural misunderstanding, a minor one, and I hope she, her family and the British people won't be affected by what has happened." And, inevitably, some enterprising soul has come up with a way to make a buck off of the incident. You can buy "Muhammad the Tolerance Teddy" at cafepress.com for $20.
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