British diplomats are trying to secure the release of a British schoolteacher who has been arrested in Sudan.Gillian Gibbons may face blasphemy charges for insulting Islam's Prophet. A conviction could mean six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine. The crime – letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad.
The toy was named in September as part of the class's study of animals and their habitats. But several parents made complaints to the authorities which led to Ms Gibbons' arrest on Sunday. The school, the Khartoum Unity High School, has now been closed until January for fear of reprisals. Fellow teachers feared for her safety after receiving reports that men had started gathering outside the police station where she was being held.
Ms Gibbons, who had joined the school in August, was following a British national curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals. She had asked a pupil to bring in her teddy bear and asked the class to pick names for it. The children chose Muhammad as their favourite name. Each child was then allowed to take the bear home at weekends and told to write a diary about what they did with it. The children's entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a message which read, "My name is Muhammad." The bear itself was not marked or labelled with the name in any way, he added.
One Muslim teacher at the independent school for Christian and Muslim children, who has a child in Ms Gibbons' class, said she "I know Gillian and she would never have meant it as an insult. I was just impressed that she got them to vote," the teacher said. The country's state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre reported that charges were being prepared "under article 125 of the criminal law" which covers insults against faith and religion.
Oh for pity's sake what a stupid charge. Presumably a photograph of a person with the name Mohammed would be equally blasphemous. I hope the Sudanese government sees sense and drops this stupid case forthwith