A British primary school teacher arrested in Sudan faces up to 40 lashes for blasphemy after letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Muhammad.Of course not. Why would she want to insult a religion whose members would call for her death for naming a teddy bear the same name that huge numbers of Muslims name their kids?
Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was arrested at her lodgings at Khartoum's Unity High School yesterday, accused of insulting the Prophet of Islam.
Her colleagues said that they feared for her safety after reports that groups of young men had gathered outside the Khartoum police station where she was taken and were shouting death threats.
The Unity school is a Christian-run but multi-racial and co-educational private school that is popular with Sudanese professionals and expatriate workers.
Teachers at the school, in central Khartoum only a mile from the River Nile, said that Ms Gibbons had made an innocent mistake by letting her pupils choose their favourite name for the toy as part of a school project.
Robert Boulos, the Unity director, said that Mrs Gibbons was following a British National Curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and their habitats. This year’s animal was the bear.
In September, she asked a girl to bring in her teddy bear to help the Year 2 class to focus and then asked the class to name the toy.
“They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad. Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name,” Mr Boulos said.
Twenty out of the 23 children chose Muhammad. Each child was allowed to take the bear home at weekends and asked to write a diary about what they did with the toy. Each entry was collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover, next to the message "My name is Muhammad".
Mr Boulos said that the bear itself was not marked or labelled with the name in any way, he added, saying Sudanese police had now seized the book and had asked to interview the 7-year-old girl.
He said that he had decided to close down the school until January for fear of reprisals in Sudan’s predominantly Muslim capital.
“This is a very sensitive issue. We are very worried about her safety,” he said. “This was a completely innocent mistake. Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam.”
Notice also the Times' dhimmified use of capitalization when referring to Mohammed as "the Prophet of Islam." Like poor Miss Gibbons, they wouldn't want to insult Islam either by not publicly pretending that they believe in it.