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Last Updated: Friday, 30 November 2007, 18:09 GMT
Sudan teddy insult teacher: Readers' views
Gillian Gibbons
British officials are trying to secure the release of Gillian Gibbons
A British teacher has been sentenced to 15 days in jail and then deportation from Sudan for allowing her pupils to call a teddy bear Muhammad.

Gillian Gibbons was found guilty of insulting religion and inciting hatred after allowing her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear in September.

BBC News website readers, as well as readers of BBCArabic.com, have been sending their reaction to this story.


I'm a Sudanese and a Muslim myself but I find no reason why this innocent lady is being humiliated and lied against saying that she insulted Islam. My own brother studies in the same school in which the teacher was teaching and it was not her to choose the name, it was a boy whose name was Mohamed. He decide that the doll be named after him. If the name of Mohamed should not be called anyhow then stop people from calling their names Mohamed. We need the teacher back. Rotto, Khartoum, Sudan

My 12-year-old son goes to the same school where Ms Gibbons is a teacher. The culture here, as elsewhere in the Islamic world, is very sensitive. That's why the story took such a direction. Maybe she didn't mean this to happen and it was an innocent mistake. But they don't accept that as an excuse. Lashes is a severe punishment and it is too harsh for what she did. But she has to be punished somehow. She should have learnt more about this society and taken more care about her actions. Me and other parents are not happy about the school closure. The children are going to miss so many classes and they were supposed to have exams next week. Now they have to stay at home and wait.
Fatima, Khartoum Sudan

I've been a student at the Unity High School for the last seven years. I am really worried about Miss Gillian. I don't know her because she teaches the younger schoolchildren, but I always see her playing with the kids and making them feel happy. She seems to be a wonderful teacher. I am a Muslim but I am not offended by what she did. She had no idea that it is forbidden. She should be freed.
Razan, Khartoum, Sudan

I believe this was a misunderstanding and the authorities are sensitive in light of the recent cartoon fiasco in Europe. I think it will be resolved and Miss Gibbons will eventually be cleared and allowed to go home. But it highlights how sensitive and defensive people have become. I pray it is all resolved soon and Ms Gibbions is allowed home.
Sultanah, Khartoum, Sudan

To feel offended by what the teacher did is impossible. She should not be punished for something like that. I believe that the teacher is in her right mind and is aware that she is in an Islamic country. I am sure she knows what can create religious tension and she wouldn't have done such a thing on purpose. The poor lady is being accused of a sin she did not commit. I hope and pray that the UK government will take this seriously and intervene with vigour before things get out of hand. Why aren't Muslim brothers taking more kindly to such things? Sanity my people!
Salma Aki, Khartoum Sudan

I was at the Unity High School when the event took place. I am a student there. I think it was a misunderstanding. I feel sorry for the teacher, sadly she lacked common sense. I am supporting Miss Gillian and I hope she can be free soon.
Mohamed Ahmed Osman, Khartoum, Sudan

I'm a Muslim and I find it ridiculous that such a harmless incident could incite such hatred. Where is the common sense? There are people called Muhammad who behave worse than animals and yet we have to imprison a teacher for choosing this name for a teddy bear. Simply outrageous.
Faruq, Singapore

From BBCArabic.com: Why did she choose this name in particular? There are many other names for these toy bears and children's TV shows are full of them. It is actually an insult to Prophet Mohammed.
Amira al-Marani, Yemen

I was born in Sudan. I moved to the UK two years ago. The teacher went to Sudan and she should have learnt the laws of that country. Here in England people think that what she did was an innocent mistake, but I don't think that. She was very wrong to make fun of the Prophet Muhammad. Boys are called Muhammad and that's alright because mothers are proud to name their sons after the Prophet. But to name a teddy bear after him is wrong. The teacher should be punished because she has insulted Islam and Muslim people.
Meizu, UK

It looks unintentional. Therefore the teacher shouldn't be punished. However, as a teacher she should be more careful and be thoroughly aware about other faiths in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious global environment. What would the teacher's reaction be if one of the students suggested the name Jesus?
Ismail, UAE

From BBCArabic.com: Muhammad is a very common name for Muslims. If we are to punish this teacher for calling a teddy bear Mohammad, then we should punish criminals for being called Mohammad. The truth is that these failed regimes want to keep people busy with these trivial matters. Sudan has enough problems already. How would Sudan feel if European countries deported Sudanese citizens as a response to this action?
Samer Hassan

Speaking as a father I do not feel this was a well thought out plan by the teacher. However, I feel that she has done nothing wrong. The children themselves should be punished for having chosen the name of our great Prophet for a lowly bear. The teacher was misguided, whereas the children were malicious. They must be brought to answer for their blasphemy.
Abdullah Al-Zawawi, Sudan

This is absolutely insane. I could understand if it was meant as a malicious attack, but it is obvious that this is far from that. It was a simple mistake made by a foreigner in that country. There are many social and cultural mistake that foreigners make in the UK. I hope that they realise soon and release this woman.
Alex, Northern Ireland

From BBCArabic.com: It was an unintentional mistake on her part to call the toy Mohammad.
Riad, Syria

The children voted as well. They should lock them up too, as a lesson to anybody who insults Prophet Muhammad.
K K Djibouto, Sudan

As a committed Muslim who would always hope to uphold the dignity of Prophet Muhammad, I am outraged by the ignorance of the Sudanese authorities. The name Muhammad is given to others and is not exclusive to the Prophet, therefore why should they think the teacher intended the toy to be an effigy? While it is not befitting to give an animal this beautiful name, any half-witted person can see that this was done with good intention. The idea of hardline rules and punishments for such trivial issues is in no way a reflection of the true Islamic teaching and I expected better from Sudan. I believe it makes a mockery of the traditionally upright and just Islamic law system. I hope the school teacher will be freed at once and apologised to.
Siddiq Bland, Leicester, UK

From BBCArabic.com: This incident shows how some people insist on insulting Prophet Mohammed in spite of the fact that they know that Muslims respect and venerate him. This teacher lives in a Muslim country and surely she knows how Muslims feel about the Prophet.
Yohanna Yousuf, Mosul, Iraq

This is unbelievable. I'm fed up of reading and hearing stupid incidents like these, which further enhance the incorrect portrayal of Islam. The teacher has quite clearly made an innocent mistake. Islam is about tolerance and forgiveness. The possible repercussions of this incident contradict this entirely. It provides more fuel for the anti-Muslim sentiment around the world.
British Muslim, London, England

It is ludicrous that Sudanese officials found the actions of this teacher offensive to their religion. By no means did she try to create a visual image of Prophet Muhammad, especially as the visual aid was in fact a harmless stuffed teddy bear. Since visual representation of the Prophet is considered blasphemous, then shouldn't all those Muslim men who are named after the Prophet change their names?
Nishank Motwani, New Delhi, India

From BBCArabic.com: The fact that she is English and lives in an Arab country makes her aware of our traditions and values. The English in particular know a lot about us and are respectful in their dealings in Arab countries. I think that if any action is to be taken, it should be to deport her and ask for an official clarification of what she meant by her action.
Ashraf Morsi

I am a Muslim, and I must say that the interpretation of the rules has gone too far. I can only expect that the teacher wanted to respect the children's honour of the Prophet by naming the teddy bear after him. It is a popular name. Every other boy in Malaysia has Muhammad as part of his name. I don't think that she intentionally tried to offend the Prophet. Children have a tendency to name favourite objects with their favourite names and, if anything, parents should feel rather proud that their children find the name Muhammad so dear to them. This ridiculous interpretation of Islamic rules should be stopped.
Syazwina Saw, Malaysia

From BBCArabic.com: My name is Mohammed. Should my parents be tried for insulting Islam?
Mohammed


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A friend and former colleague of Gillian Gibbons gives her view



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02 Feb 06 |  Middle East

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