Gillian Gibbons is getting more than her allotted 15 minutes of fame. She is a 54-year old British lady who went to Sudan to teach, I imagine out of a strong sense of doing the right thing and helping those less fortunate. Even if her job paid well, living in Khartoum is obviously no picnic.
In teaching a class of primary school children about animals, Mrs Gibbons had them name a teddy bear. She allowed them to nominate and then vote on the names – apparently introducing a democratic process rarely used in Sudan into the lesson. But that’s not what she got into trouble for.
The children, who were 6 and 7 years old, chose names that were familiar to them. The population of Sudan is 70% Sunni Muslim and the name the children chose in the end was Mohammed. At least one of the children was called Mohammed and certainly more had brothers or fathers or uncles called Mohammed. It seems perfectly reasonable they would choose that name for their bear.
But the authorities have arrested Mrs Gibbons and charged her with insulting religion, inciting hatred, and showing contempt for religious beliefs.
It is clear to anyone with even a modicum of common sense that Mrs Gibbons was doing none of those things. She was teaching a group of children to be creative and reinforcing to them that their ideas had value. So much for introducing progressive educational methodologies into schools in backwards countries.
Apparently under the three charges against her, Mrs Gibbons faces 6 months in prison, a fine, and 40 lashes with a whip. That’s right – a 54-year old school teacher faces being brutally whipped for letting children name a teddy bear. I am outraged.
If the Sudanese authorities feel the need to go ahead with this charade of injustice, I would suggest that they skip the trial and simply deport Mrs Gibbons. The unenlightened citizenry of Sudan should be satisfied with that, and I am sure that Mrs Gibbons would be happy to leave their shithole of a country behind her.