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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 08:10 GMT
Pupil defends Sudan row teacher
Gillian Gibbons
Gillian Gibbons was arrested on Sunday in Khatoum
A Sudanese pupil of a British woman arrested on blasphemy allegations has said it was his idea to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was arrested on Sunday in Khartoum, and could face charges of insulting Islam's Prophet after her class named the toy.

But one boy said: "The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy. I said Muhammad. I named it after my name."

The Sudanese Embassy in London said the situation was a "storm in a teacup".

It has indicated that she could be released soon, as the incident was based on a cultural misunderstanding.

Three British embassy staff and one of her colleagues have now been allowed to visit Mrs Gibbons at Sudan's Criminal Exploration Bureau. So far she has spent three nights in custody.

The toy was named in September after children were asked to vote on a name for a teddy bear as part of the class's study of animals and their habitats.

I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly
Dr Khalid al Mubarak
Sudan Embassy spokesman

The boy's family said he was not thinking of the prophet when he chose the name.

Speaking to reporters, they said Ms Gibbons was a "very nice" teacher who did not mention religion in class.

A spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid al-Mubarak, told the BBC that it was a "minute" matter.

"What is happening now is standard procedure because one of the parents has complained and the police is bound to investigate just as is the case in any country in which there is rule of law.

"I am pretty certain that this minute incident will be clarified very quickly and that this venerable teacher who has been helping us teach our children will be safe and will be cleared".

It is seen as an insult to Islam to attempt to make an image of the Prophet Muhammad.

Foreign Office officials have visited Ms Gibbons in custody, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he felt "very sorry" about what was happening to her.

School closed

He said officials would continue to try to "clarify the position so that she can be released".

She was arrested after several parents of children at the Unity High School, in Khartoum, made complaints.

Ms Gibbons has been suspended from her teaching post, and the school has closed until January.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also said it appeared to have been a "quite horrible misunderstanding" and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested.

There was no apparent intention to offend Islamic sensibilities or defame the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad, he said.

Sudan 'could free teacher soon'
27 Nov 07 |  Africa
Q&A: Depicting the Prophet Muhammad
02 Feb 06 |  Middle East


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