James Sturcke and agencies Monday November 26, 2007 Guardian Unlimited
A British primary school teacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of blasphemy for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad, it emerged today.
Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was arrested yesterday at her home inside Unity high school, a British international school, after a number of parents made a complaint to Sudan's education ministry.
The school's director, Robert Boulos, said Gibbons had since been charged with blasphemy, an offence he said was punishable with up to three months in prison and a fine.
Gibbons's colleagues told Reuters they feared for her safety after receiving reports that young men had already started gathering outside the Khartoum police station where she was being held.
Boulos said Gibbons was following a national curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and their habitats. This year's animal was the bear.
Gibbons, who joined Unity in August, asked the class of mostly seven-year-olds to name the toy.
"They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad. Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name." Twenty out of the 23 children chose Muhammad.
Each child was allowed to take the bear home at weekends and was told to write a diary about what he or she did with the toy. The entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover, next to the message "My name is Muhammad," said Boulos.
Boulos said the first he knew about the course was last week when he received a phone call from the ministry of education, saying a number of Muslim parents had made formal complaints.
A spokesman for the British embassy in Khartoum said it was still unclear whether Gibbons had been formally charged. "We are following it up with the authorities and trying to meet her in person," he said.
Boulos said he had decided to close down the school until January for fear of reprisals in Sudan's predominantly Muslim capital. "This is a very sensitive issue," he said.
"We are very worried about her safety," he added. "This was a completely innocent mistake. Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam."
Unity, an independent school founded in 1902, is governed by a board representing the main Christian denominations in Sudan but teaches both Christians and Muslims aged four to 18.
First cartoons now stuffed toys. For those that cannot remember the cartoons.
"Blasphemy"? Well they surely don't prosecute such cases when Christianity is "blasphemed". (Maybe because if they did, they might have to arrest the Archbishop of Canterbury!)
Jesus, God,The-god-of-which-I-believe-in-that-you-do-not-have-to-believe-in, some people need to get their heads outta their asses. It hoguht Religion < Liberty. :-(
I didn't make it!
In the interest of political correctness I won't go ahead and gripe about this... but that's, just, wrong.
The religion of peace and tolerance strikes again.
Christian evangelicals are more islamic then they are christian.
I feel like punching someone... not the teacher.
Be4viz;4055842I feel like punching someone... not the teacher.
If you thought that was bad look at this.
Pasquill;4055854If you thought that was bad look at this.
Yeah, saw that one a few days ago, fcking idiots.
Be4viz;4055869Yeah, saw that one a few days ago, fcking idiots.
Seen the one about the French boy who was gang raped in Dubai and faces 6 months in jail for "forced homosexuality"?