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December 4, 2007

Siding with the innocent children

Interesting commentary on Gillian Gibbons' release from Sudan's liberal Al-Sahafah newspaper (as translated by BBC Monitoring):

A commentary by Dr Abd-al-Wahab al-Afandi entitled "Implications of the British teacher's case in Sudan: The clash of Islam and capitalism" noted that, "If this issue had been raised to the Prophet he would have sided with the innocent children who gave their beloved toy his name. He would have considered this as an example of love and truth..."

It went on: "Commoners, let alone elites and educated people, can easily distinguish between what really angers God and his Prophet, and who is striving to take advantage of some issues for other reasons... Whoever creates a battle where there is no place for one in the name of religion thus insults Islam and its Prophet and creates a wrongful impression of the religion making it to be hated by people, is committing a great offence incurring the wrath of God and his Prophet."

Posted by aheavens at 2:18 PM

December 3, 2007


Here endeth the weirdest week that I can remember in a long time (since the last weirdest week that I can remember in a long time, that is).

Gillian Gibbons has at last been pardoned. She is not out of the country yet, so anything could still happen. But everyone seems to think she will be back home in England either late today or tomorrow.

The photo shows Britain's first Muslim peer Lord Ahmed announcing the pardon at the President's Palace this morning. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is on the right, looking at him.

[Just in case you don't do news - Gillian Gibbons is the British teacher who was jailed for 15 days on Thursday for "offending religion" by letting her primary class name a teddy bear Mohammad. Everyone who knew her said it was obvious she had never meant to offend anyone - that the whole thing was an innocent mistake. One of her little pupils even went public saying he had chosen the name for the bear as part of a school project, not because it was the name of Islam's holiest Prophet, but because it was his name. But that didn't stop hundreds of Muslims taking to the streets on Friday calling for her execution. Over the weekend, two leading Muslims from the UK's House of Lords have been in town - Lord Ahmed (Labour) and Baroness Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (Conservative) - meeting anyone they can to get an early release for the teacher. This morning, they got a result when Sudan's President pardoned her.]

A few mysteries remain. The main one is the timing. Gillian Gibbons let her little students name the toy Mohammad back in September. [It was part of a British National Curriculum project to encourage literacy - the children took turns taking the bear home at weekends, then wrote a diary about the visit.] Back then, none of the Muslim parents in the class raised an objection. A whole two months later, a school secretary suddenly felt offended enough to report the project to the Ministry of Education. At the moment, no one really knows why.

Everyone is now on the lookout for a reaction to the pardon. Just yesterday the influential Council of Muslim Scholars was urging the government not to limit her sentence for fear of offending "the sensibilities of the Muslims in Sudan". There has already been a small demo held by about 50 students of Omdurman Islamic University outside the gates of the British Embassy earlier this afternoon. It will take a while for the full news of the pardon to filter out on to the streets. But everything could reach a head again next Friday.

In the meantime, here's a small insight into today's media industry. You've all seen those banks of microphones shoved in front of politicians at big press conferences. You've probably always assumed that those microphones were there to record something and were, you know, plugged into something. Well, take a closer look at the above photo to discover the shocking lack of audio connections. The terrible truth is that most microphones are not microphones at all, when they are at press conferences. In every bundle of mikes, there will be one with a lead in it, and about 20 without a connection, just there for show. The unconnected ones are simply advertising hoardings for television companies, in disguise.

UPDATE 1: Read South of West on why the Gillian Gibbons debacle was the perfect story.

Posted by aheavens at 10:23 AM

December 1, 2007

If you want to know why I haven't been writing for a while ...

Read South of West's entry Wired in Sudan.

I am one of the three journalists mentioned in the second to last paragraph. The second is my wife. The third is South of West himself, our house guest.

Oh, pity the journalists.

Posted by aheavens at 8:42 AM