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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 16:41 GMT
Bloggers condemn Sudan for arrest
African Press Graphic
Sudanese blogs and forums have largely condemned the arrest of British teacher Gillian Gibbons for letting her young schoolchildren name a teddy bear Muhammad.

All the comments, most of them in English, defended the British teacher and many of them called for her release. Some called the whole issue "pathetic" and termed Ms Gibbons' act "an honest and innocent mistake".

The media in Sudan and the Middle-East have largely ignored the case.

THE SUDANESE THINKER BLOG

"The whole thing is just so unbelievably pathetic. Clearly it's an honest and innocent mistake. Oh no, how stupid can I be, she's a white British infidel so it must be a freaking Zionist CrUSAde and a Jewish conspiracy. Right?" said a contributor to www.sudanesethinker.com.

On the same site another writer backdated the issue to the influence of Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi: "This isn't the first time the [Unity High] school finds itself in the midst of a controversy, albeit one surely not as big as this.

"Back in the 90s when beloved al-Turabi was still in power and his version of Sharia was being shoved down our throats, the school came under pressure to change the girls' uniform.

Sudanese reporter smokes a cigarette as he sits outside the Khartoum court, Sudan (29/11/2007)
Journalists were prevented from entering the court

"Many Islamists hated the fact that girls wore skirts and mixed with boys. Now we have this."

Other comments on the site criticised Sudanese Islamists: "Once more, Islamic hard-liners are making their religion look ridiculous. How sad."

"Astonishing backwardness, oh people!" said another posting, in Arabic.

"I hate the stupidity of this," one entry on the forum said. "More attention will hopefully mean the release of Ms Gibbons without getting jailed or lashed so bring it please!"

AMJAD's BLOG

More comments criticizing the Sudanese authorities appeared on Amjad's blog.

Sudanese read newspapers at a street vender's corner outside the Khartoum court (29/11/2007)
Sudanese newspapers are not reporting much on the case

"Three words: This is ridiculous.

"How on earth would a British teacher know that naming the teddy bear Muhammed would insult our prophet, especially that 20 out of the 23 children CHOSE to name the teddy bear Mohammed and she wasn't the one naming it?

"Why are they assuming that the teddy bear was named after our prophet (PBUH)?

"This is really stupid!" the writer Amjad posted.

On the same blog, Suburban said: "Unbelievable. And totally outrageous... More excellent PR for Islam, and the forward thinking, rational, Muslim community... Why did the Ministry of Education file a case and let the authorities ARREST the teacher? Couldn't they sort things out in another way, without arresting the teacher, and even demanding a sentence to death to be applied on her? This is really sick."

FACEBOOK

A group formed in www.facebook.com is demanding Gibbons' release.

The "Release Gillian Gibbons Now" group carries postings from Sudanese contributors, condemning the arrest and demanding her immediate release.

"We demand the immediate release of Gillian Gibbons, a Unity High School teacher (in Khartoum Sudan) who has been: wrongly and unfairly arrested for making the 'mistake' of allowing her seven-year-old students to choose a name for a fellow students show-and-tell teddy bear... There is No reason whatsoever to even have a trial over a simple misunderstanding that could have been resolved by the parents and faculty!... Wake Up, Stand Up and Speak Up! Enough is Enough!

"Ask all your family and friends to join this group to show support for the Immediate Release of Gillian Gibbons," the first entry says.

Sara Madani writes: "The poor woman now is facing a cruel punishment as if the Sudanese government applies the laws of Islam, the Sharia... stupid government! think if anybody should be locked up its our failing leaders who are the real insult to our country and our religion... they make our Sudan look bad."

A teddy bear on sale in Sudan

"The worst part, by far, is that neither we nor the media are able to shrug this off for the foolishness that it is and insist on making a mountain out of a molehill," posts Hatim Yahia.

"Let's see, on the one hand we have global warming, continuing poverty, HIV, famine, war and generally death in all forms, but no we'd rather talk about this lunacy instead.

"Our government should ask this country to release Gillian Gibbons within the next 12 hours or sanctions should be imposed. I think this is disgusting how the Sudanese establishment has acted."

GLOBAL BLOGOSPHERE

A brief survey by BBC Monitoring on 29 November 2007 indicated that the story was not yet featuring prominently in the global blogosphere.

For example, a search on the Technorati website at 0945 GMT produced fewer than 300 hits, mostly from US and UK bloggers.

However, many of these postings were merely links to factual reports on mainstream news websites such as International Herald Tribune.

The affair has been widely reported in the UK press, and the London-based pan-Arab press have carried factual reports. However, media in the Middle East appear to be playing down the story, which has so far been overshadowed by comment on the Annapolis meeting.


BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Sudanese journalist's opinion of the trial



SEE ALSO
Pupil defends Sudan row teacher
28 Nov 07 |  Africa
What can't be named Muhammad?
28 Nov 07 |  Magazine
Q&A: Depicting the Prophet Muhammad
02 Feb 06 |  Middle East

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