Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teddy Bears Picnic in Sudan

(I was going to call this 'Teddy Bears Pig's Ear', but didn't in case I got arrested by the Sudanese police.)

It's been reassuring to hear the consistent opposition from British Muslims and Muslim groups to the arrest and charge of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan for allowing her class to call a teddy bear Muhammed. How on earth such an act can 'incite religious hatred' is beyond me. In fact the actions of the Sudanese legal system are much more likely to incite hatred. Many Muslim groups have recognised the damage this case could do:

in Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission was among Muslim groups to call for her immediate release.

Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said: "Both the Sudanese government and the media must refrain from using Islam and Islamic principles to legitimise this fiasco, which may result in the unjust conviction of an innocent person, and which will only lead to the promotion of Islamophobia and further demonisation of Islam."

And a spokesman for the Muslim youth organisation, the Ramadhan Foundation, said "this matter is not worthy of arrest or detention and her continued detention will not help repair the misconceptions about Islam." . from the BBC website.

The trouble is that it's very easy to make the 'tip of the iceberg' argument. Yes Sudan is an oppressive rogue state, but it's not the only one with the death penalty for Muslims who convert to other faiths. Only recently a rape victim in another Muslim state was given a punishment after her appeal for a higher sentence for her abusers. However, as a Christian once you make this argument you discover a very large plank in your own eye with words like 'Crusades', 'Inquisition', and 'Cromwell' written on it. Which is exactly the argument that secularists make: trawl through any online debate about the merits of religion and you'll find plenty of 'plague on all their houses' comments.

Tricky one: at one level, getting into a 'my faith is better than your faith' argument looks petty. But at another level, Jesus and Mohammed can't both be right. It's one, the other, or neither. So if you do believe in God, then there is a debate to be had over the relative merits of Christianity and Islam, both the teachings of their founders, (and the historical basis for them), and the effect they have on people who embrace them.

Back at the centre of all this is an ordinary primary school teacher, who has suddenly found herself at the centre of an international storm through a purely innocent action. Anyone who's ever been on the wrong end of the village gossip know what this feels like, but now the village is global.

Grow up. Let her go. Leave her alone. And may the children in that class resolve never to be like their elders.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you are going to have nice picnic..