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Teacher charged in teddy bear case - Sudan

Old 11-28-07, 11:34 AM
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Teacher charged in teddy bear case - Sudan

Teacher charged in teddy bear case

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- A British teacher arrested in Sudan after allowing her class to name a teddy bear "Mohammed" has been charged by authorities with offending religion, British officials say.



Gillian Gibbons, 54, is being held by police in the capital Khartoum after she asked her class of seven-year-olds to come up with a name for the toy as part of a school project, Robert Boulos, the head of Unity High School told CNN.

It is expected that she will appear in court Thursday, Sudan state media reported.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said Gibbons had been charged under Article 125 of Sudan's constitution, the law relating to insulting religion and inciting hatred.

The spokeswoman said the Sudanese ambassador had been summoned to the offices of the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to discuss the case. Gibbons was arrested under the country's Islamic Sharia law after parents of some of her students complained to police.

Under country's law, the offense is punishable with 40 lashes, a jail term of up to a year or a fine.

Khalid Mubarak, the media counselor at the Sudan embassy in London, said the judicial process was taking its course but added that even if Gibbons was found guilty "the question of punishment is a long way off."

"This woman is being dealt with in the proper ways in accordance with the laws of our country," he told CNN.

He said he was concerned about how the latest developments would affect Sudan's relationship with Britain.

"This is a worry for us. We have already received abusive phone calls to our offices in London," he said.

Gibbons' arrest was announced in Arabic on the state-run news agency's Web site. No-one from Sudan's government has so far commented on the decision.

It is not known how long the court process will take or the type of court the hearing will take place in.

Although there is no ban in the Koran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, likenesses are considered highly offensive by Muslims.

Gibbons had been working at the school -- popular with wealthy Sudanese and e -- since August, after leaving her position as deputy head teacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer, said Boulos.

He said Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.

Classmates took turns taking the teddy bear home with them, accompanied by a diary with the bear's name written in the front of it, said Boulos, who heads the private school, which has been shut down since the controversy came to light.

"All this is a very sensitive area. I asked her (Gibbons) why she had done it and she said she didn't chose the name, the children did," he told CNN.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was "very sorry" about Gibbons' arrest and that the British Embassy in Khartoum was "giving all appropriate consular assistance to her."

Brown said all efforts were being taken to ensure her early release and that government officials were in touch with the teacher's family in the northern British city of Liverpool.
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa...ars/index.html
A 7-year-old Sudanese student on Tuesday defended the British teacher accused of insulting Islam saying he had chosen to call a teddy bear Mohammad because it was his own name…

“The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy,” the boy said shyly, his voice barely rising above a whisper. “I said Mohammad. I named it after my name,” he added.

Sitting in his garden wearing shorts, his family, who did not want their full names used, urged him to describe what had happened.

He said he was not thinking of Islam’s Prophet when asked to suggest a name, adding most of the class agreed with his choice.
http://amerpundit.com/2007/11/27/7-y...-bear-teacher/

I imagine there are bigger issues at play here like British government vs. Sudanese government but still...
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Old 11-28-07, 11:40 AM
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Why is it okay to name a child Mohammed but not an inanimate object?

Of course, I'm asking for religious extremists to make sense.
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Old 11-28-07, 11:42 AM
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Mohammed is the most popular given religious name. If it isn't a crime to name kids after him, why is it a crime to name stuffed animals after him. It isn't like they made a graven image of him
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Old 11-28-07, 11:44 AM
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I feel bad for her.
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Old 11-28-07, 11:46 AM
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If a teacher named a teddy bear "Jesus" in the United States, she wouldn't be arrested but she'd most certainly be reprimanded and possibly fired.
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Old 11-28-07, 11:48 AM
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The insulting religion charge is a bit nebulous but I can see how it can be construed under strict circumstances but the inciting hatred charge? For naming a teddy bear -- suggested by one of the children and agreed upon by the class?
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Old 11-28-07, 11:48 AM
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But that is because she didn't keep church and state separated.

but if a kid in the u.s. named his bear Jesus and the teacher said not to, she'd get in trouble for infringing on his religous rights.
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Old 11-28-07, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
If a teacher named a teddy bear "Jesus" in the United States, she wouldn't be arrested but she'd most certainly be reprimanded and possibly fired.
Is it a Hispanic bear?
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Old 11-28-07, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
If a teacher named a teddy bear "Jesus" in the United States, she wouldn't be arrested but she'd most certainly be reprimanded and possibly fired.
Not if it's a private school.
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Old 11-28-07, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
Is it a Hispanic bear?
Racist.
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Old 11-28-07, 12:12 PM
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The Blasphemous Teddy Bear
Monday, Nov. 26, 2007
By ROB CRILLY/KHARTOUM


British primary school teacher Gillian Gibbons has been arrested in Sudan,
accused of insulting Islam's Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds
name a teddy bear Mohammed.


It probably seemed like the most innocent of ideas to the newly arrived teacher from England, still settling into life in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. She asked her class of six- and seven-year-olds to dress up and name a teddy bear, and keep a diary of his outings. She hoped it would provide material for projects for the rest of the year. And it might have, except for the name the children chose for their bear: Muhammad.

Now Gillian Gibbons, 54, is spending her second night in a Sudanese prison, accused of insulting Islam's Prophet. She faces a public lashing or up to six months in prison if found guilty on charges of blasphemy. And Unity High School — one of a number of exclusive British-run schools in the Sudanese capital — has been closed as staff fear reprisals from Islamic extremists. Robert Boulos, the school's director, said the incident had been blown out of all proportion, but added that the school would remain closed until January to let ill feelings blow over.

"This was a completely innocent mistake," he said in an office decorated with sepia photographs dating back to the school's colonial heyday. "Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam."

Police raided the school, where Gibbons also lives, on Sunday.

"We tried to reason with them but we felt they were coming under strong pressure from Islamic courts," said Boulos. "There were men with big beards asking where she was and saying they wanted to kill her."

A similar angry crowd had gathered by the time she arrived at the Khartoum police station where she is being held.


Unity, founded early in the last century, is one of several British schools run along Christian lines in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Its high brick walls shut out the dust of everyday Sudanese life, transporting the visitor into the shady courtyard of an Oxbridge college or English private school. Many of its pupils come from well-to-do Sudanese families keen for their children to get the best education that money can buy. But Sudan is ruled by religious conservatives. Sharia law was introduced in 1991; alcohol is banned and women must wear headscarves. Convicted criminals are routinely flogged or executed.

The bizarre turn of events that led to the teacher's arrest began in September, soon after she arrived in the country, according to colleagues who have rallied in her support. Her young class was due to study the behavior and habitat of bears, so she suggested that pupils bring in a teddy bear to serve as a case study. A seven-year-old girl brought in her favorite cuddly toy and the rest of the class was invited to name him. After considering the names Hassan and Abdullah, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Muhammad — the first name of the most popular boy in the class.

"No parents or teachers complained because they knew she had no bad intention," said Boulos. Until last week. Parents from another class raised concerns with the school. Then Sudan's feared police came calling at the weekend. Gibbons' colleagues said they feared a disgruntled member of staff may be using the issue to cause trouble.

Bishop Ezikiel Kondo, chairman of the school council, said: "The thing may be very simple, but they just may make it bigger. It's a kind of blackmail." Khartoum has exploded with anger at accusations of blasphemy in the past. Last year angry demonstrators denounced cartoons of the Prophet that appeared in Danish newspapers. And there have been protests at the actions of Zoe's Ark, a French charity accused of trying to smuggle children out of neighboring Chad.

Now everyone is waiting to see whether religious leaders or politicians will take their supporters onto the streets this time. Most parents arriving at the school gates were supportive of the British teacher. One mother, whose seven-year-old son was in Gibbons' class, said her family had not been offended by the name. "Our Prophet Muhammad tells us to be forgiving," she said. "So she should be released. She didn't mean any of this at all."
http://www.time.com/time/world/artic...687755,00.html
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Old 11-28-07, 12:19 PM
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Not sure how it works, but I hope somehow the British government gets involved.
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Old 11-28-07, 01:58 PM
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Poor teddy bear, being named Mohammed. That's a cruel thing to do to a teddy bear.
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Old 11-28-07, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
If a teacher named a teddy bear "Jesus" in the United States, she wouldn't be arrested but she'd most certainly be reprimanded and possibly fired.
Are you sure? There are plenty of Jesuses(pronounced "Hey-soos") in our school system.
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Old 11-28-07, 04:30 PM
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Gotta love these Muslim laws...

Teacher with Teddy Bear named Mohammed getting 40 lashes = acceptable
Underwear on head in prison = outrage!

It's like we are on a different planet..
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Old 11-28-07, 05:00 PM
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I think it's understandable.

This sent me into such a violent rage that the only way I could express it was to go out and set fire to my car:

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Old 11-28-07, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
If a teacher named a teddy bear "Jesus" in the United States, she wouldn't be arrested but she'd most certainly be reprimanded and possibly fired.

True, but it would be from pressure of the ACLU, etc. and not the religious. If it did come from the religious, she might get reprimanded to make the people feel better, but she wouldn't even get suspended. My guess is you know that, however.
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Old 11-28-07, 05:35 PM
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I'm glad the Sudan has their priorities straight:
*Misnaming teddy bear: blasphemy, 40 lashes
*Genocide in Darfur: Nothing to see here, just killin' me some infidels, move along
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Old 11-29-07, 02:14 PM
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So she was found guilty and sentences to 15 days in jail and then she will be deported.

What a f'd up country

Edit to add that I think Wishbon3 was right in the first post. This was more of a British government vs. Sudanese government thing and I think obviously they were just looking for an excuse. She was doing a good job teaching, her kids liked her.. That's not the impression they want their kids to have of the west

Last edited by General Zod; 11-29-07 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-29-07, 02:42 PM
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excerpts

Appearing somber and dazed, Gibbons arrived at the central courthouse in Khartoum for her closed hearing early Thursday. A staff member from the British Embassy in Khartoum and defense lawyers were in the hearing with her.

The courthouse was heavily guarded by police, who kept journalists -- and, for a while, even one of her attorneys -- away.

Gibbons could have faced a sentence of 40 lashes, a fine or jail term of up to a year, according to the Foreign Office, which expressed Britain's dissatisfaction with the verdict.

"We are extremely disappointed that the charges against Gillian Gibbons were not dismissed," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement issued shortly after the verdict was announced.

"As I said this morning, our clear view is that this is an innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher. Our priority now is to ensure Ms. Gibbons' welfare and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her. I have called in the Sudanese Ambassador, Omer Siddiq, this evening to explain the decision and discuss next steps."

The Foreign Office said Gibbons would be given credit for the four days since her arrest, meaning that the she has 11 days remaining on her sentence.

Earlier, Miliband had met with Siddig, who was summoned to the Foreign Office in London.

"I explained to him that we were very concerned by the case. We believe that this was an innocent misunderstanding," Miliband said in a statement released Thursday after the meeting.

"The Sudanese ambassador undertook to ensure our concerns were relayed to Khartoum at the highest level. He also said he would reflect back to Khartoum the real respect for the Islamic religion in this country," the statement added.

On the first floor of the courthouse, around 25 police linked arms and forced journalists and British officials away from the court entrance. Police detained some journalists, and confiscated a camera belonging to a free-lance CNN cameraman.

Four vans filled with riot police were waiting outside the courthouse, but there were no signs of street disturbances or protests. Staff from Gibbons' school, including Robert Boulos, the head of Unity High School, were present. The staff members refused to comment on their colleague's predicament.

On Wednesday, Boulos said he was "horrified" when he found out a member of his own staff complained, not from a parent as originally thought. Defense counsel later confirmed that the complaint came from Sarah Khawad, a secretary at the school.

Gibbons has been working at the school -- popular with wealthy Sudanese and e -- since August, after leaving her position as deputy head teacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer, Boulos said.

He said Gibbons asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa...ars/index.html

I am glad to hear that she is not being whipped. Hopefully this will leave a lasting impression on her students and that they will learn from this experience.
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Old 11-30-07, 08:23 AM
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excerpts

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters brandishing swords and sticks gathered outside Khartoum's presidential palace Friday to vent their anger against a British teacher jailed for allowing children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

About 600 Islamic demonstrators piled out of mosques, chanting: "By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammed." Some of the protesters demanded the teacher's execution, according to The Associated Press.

The agency reports that some chanted: "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

The decision by a Sudanese court to jail Gillian Gibbons late Thursday was widely criticized outside Sudan as too harsh, with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying he was "extremely disappointed" the charges were not dismissed.

Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a prominent cleric and hardliner, told worshippers Friday at the Martyrs Mosque: "Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," according to AP. But he did not urge worshippers to protest.

In leaflets distributed earlier this week by Muslim groups and seen by CNN, the protesters promised a "popular release of anger" at demonstrations called for Friday.

The leaflets condemned Gibbons as an "infidel" and accused her of "the pollution of children's mentality" by her actions.


The teacher was convicted of insulting religion but cleared of two other charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, Ali Ajeb, her lawyer said.

Ajeb said they were planning to appeal the sentence, which runs from the date she was first detained, November 25.

Gibbons, 54, is being held in a woman's prison in the Omdurman district of Khartoum and she will be deported at the end of her prison term, British consular officials in the city told CNN.

Embassy staff said they were giving the teacher, from the northern English city of Liverpool, full consular assistance.

Omer Mohammed Ahmed Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador to Britain, was summoned for a second time to meet with the British foreign secretary late Thursday after the court's ruling.

Miliband also spoke to the Sudanese acting foreign minister for 15 minutes on the telephone during the meeting, the British Foreign Office said.

"Our priority now is to ensure Ms. Gibbons' welfare and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her," Miliband said in a statement.

The Foreign Office said there would be further talks with the Sudanese government Friday.

British newspapers condemned Gibbons' conviction, with The Daily Telegraph calling for the recall of the British ambassador from Khartoum and sanctions against the heads of the Sudanese government.

In an editorial the tabloid newspaper, The Sun, said Gibbons' jailing was a "grotesque insult to Islam" and called Gibbons "an innocent abroad."

Four vans filled with riot police were stationed outside the courthouse at Thursday's hearing, but there were no signs of street disturbances or protests.
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa...ars/index.html

Hopefully she can make it out of Sudan without harm.
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Old 11-30-07, 08:30 AM
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Why is everyone here defending the <b>teacher?!</B> I came back to the political forum this morning for the wack jobs.
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Old 11-30-07, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
Racist.
Homophobe!
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Old 11-30-07, 09:18 AM
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this is the sort of the thing the founding fathers were hoping to prevent when they established the United States with a secular government.
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Old 11-30-07, 10:48 AM
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Yahoo Story
Calls in Sudan for execution of Briton

By MOHAMED OSMAN, Associated Press Writer
17 minutes ago

KHARTOUM, Sudan - Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

In response to the demonstration, teacher Gillian Gibbons was moved from the women's prison near Khartoum to a secret location for her safety, her lawyer said.

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

They massed in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. They did not try to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour.

"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal al-Gizouli, said she was moved from the prison for her safety for the final nine days of her sentence.

"They moved this lady from the prison department to put her in other hands and in other places to cover her and wait until she completes her imprisonment period," he said, adding that she was in good health.

"They want, by hook or by crook, to complete these nine days without any difficulties, which would have an impact on their foreign relationship," he said.

Several hundred protesters, not openly carrying weapons, marched from the square to Unity High School, about a mile away, where Gibbons worked. They chanted slogans outside the school, which is closed and under heavy security, then headed toward the nearby British Embassy. They were stopped by security forces two blocks away from the embassy.

The protest arose despite vows by Sudanese security officials the day before, during Gibbons' trial, that threatened demonstrations after Friday prayers would not take place. Some of the protesters carried green banners with the name of the Society for Support of the Prophet Muhammad, a previously unknown group.

Many protesters carried clubs, knives and axes — but not automatic weapons, which some have brandished at past government-condoned demonstrations. That suggested Friday's rally was not organized by the government.

A Muslim cleric at Khartoum's main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however.

"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers.

"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said.

Britain, meanwhile, pursued diplomatic moves to free Gibbons. Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with a member of her family to convey his regret, his spokeswoman said.

"He set out his concern and the fact that we were doing all we could to secure her release," spokeswoman Emily Hands told reporters.

Most Britons expressed shock at the verdict by a court in Khartoum, alongside hope it would not raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain.

"One of the good things is the U.K. Muslims who've condemned the charge as completely out of proportion," said Paul Wishart, 37, a student in London.

"In the past, people have been a bit upset when different atrocities have happened and there hasn't been much voice in the U.K. Islamic population, whereas with this, they've quickly condemned it."

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Sudanese authorities of "gross overreaction."

"This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities," he said.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a political advocacy group, said the prosecution was "abominable and defies common sense."

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which represents 90,000 Muslim students in Britain and Ireland, called on Sudan's government to free Gibbons, saying she had not meant to cause offense.

"We are deeply concerned that the verdict to jail a schoolteacher due to what's likely to be an innocent mistake is gravely disproportionate," said the group's president, Ali Alhadithi.

The Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organization, said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should pardon the teacher.

"The Ramadhan Foundation is disappointed and horrified by the conviction of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan," said spokesman Mohammed Shafiq.


Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said Gibbons' prosecution and conviction was "an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at worst a cultural faux pas."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador late Thursday to express Britain's disappointment with the verdict. The Foreign Office said Britain would continue diplomatic efforts to achieve "a swift resolution" to the crisis.

Gibbons was arrested Sunday after another staff member at the school complained that she had allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Giving the name of the Muslim prophet to an animal or a toy could be considered insulting.

The case put Sudan's government in an embarrassing position — facing the anger of Britain on one side and potential trouble from powerful Islamic hard-liners on the other. Many saw the 15-day sentence as an attempt to appease both sides.

In The Times, columnist Bronwen Maddox said the verdict was "something of a fudge ... designed to give a nod to British reproof but also to appease the street."

Britain's response — applying diplomatic pressure while extolling ties with Sudan and affirming respect for Islam — had produced mixed results, British commentators concluded.

In an editorial, The Daily Telegraph said Miliband "has tiptoed around the case, avoiding a threat to cut aid and asserting that respect for Islam runs deep in Britain. Given that much of the government's financial support goes to the wretched refugees in Darfur and neighboring Chad, Mr. Miliband's caution is understandable."

Now, however, the newspaper said, Britain should recall its ambassador in Khartoum and impose sanctions on the Sudanese regime.
Where are all the moderate muslims at a time like this???!!!

Oh wait!

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