Monday, November 26, 2007

When Good Ideas Go Very Bad

The case of Muhammad the Teddy Bear

As if the image of Islam had not already been attacked enough by outsiders, now we must contend with our own people destroying the image of Islam. The recent conviction of a woman in Saudi Arabia on charges of adultery after being raped was not only against the spirit of Islam, it was against reason. Now we must contend yet again with the very people who claim they are defending Islam, while tearing down the ideals of compassion and understanding.

Gillian Gibbons of Liverpool, England has been arrested in Khartoum, Sudan and charged with insulting Islam and/or the Prophet of Islam. I understand the need for laws against these actions; I firmly believe that your freedoms (of speech or religion) should not impede or override my own freedoms. However in this case, we have see this good idea go very bad.

Ms Gibbons is a schoolteacher who made the critical mistake of allowing her class of 6 and 7 year-old children name a class teddy bear. Following a British national curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and this year's topic was the bear. She explained what it meant to vote and allowed the children to vote on a name for the bear, which garnered such suggestions as Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad. Muhammad was chosen by 20 out of 23 students as their favorite name.
Each child was then allowed to take the bear home at weekends and told to write a diary about what they did with it. The children's entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a title, which read, "My name is Muhammad."

For this horrific crime Ms Gibbons will be charged under article 125 of the criminal code, which covers insults against faith and or religion. For This crime she faces the possible punishments of up to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine. The reasoning behind this is, in as much as I have been able to discover, is that it is forbidden in Islam to portray an image of a Prophet. It was not until this past Sunday, several months after the project had been initiated, that complaints of several parents led to her arrest. It is not surprising that the Ministry of Justice has no comment as of yet, perhaps needing more time to understand themselves the exact nature of the crime and how to explain it to the teacher, and by default her co conspirators of 6 and 7 year-olds, as well as the unavoidable media that this case will be sure to draw.

When other Muslim teachers who had children in her class were not offended, I find it interesting that we should buckle under the pressure of the few, who have mistakenly attacked this project as some form of defamation of the Prophet of Islam. For any discerning person who possesses any rational capability for reason, we would have just asked ourselves first – How is this possibly related to the Prophet any more then the millions of men and boys alike who share the same name? Not being satisfied with out own conclusions perhaps we would have gone to the teacher herself and asked her to explain her position, as none around her including the Muslim teachers she worked with felt she would have ever intentionally insulted Islam. Ley us hope that this whole case has been blown out of proportion and those involved realize it. Ms Gibbons did nothing wrong and is a victim of tragic ideals gone wrong, and now she and her students are fordced to deal with understanding what they did wrong, when in fact they did nothing wrong. May Allah guide us all!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Flower of Islam Blossoms During War

It is not unusual to meet soldiers who have embraced Islam during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, but it is not as often we read of the higher-ranking soldiers who accept the mercy of Islam. NATO International Security Assistance Force Commander for the Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, Captain Cormier Michael has publicly embraced Islam during his current post in the region. Captain Michael, who commands the 300 ISAF troops in Ghazni, has been studying books on Islam for the past five years, which lead him to the conclusion that ‘Islam is the first religion’.

The past ten months in Ghazni has only reinforced his beliefs, being impressed by the actions of his personal translator as well as the community around him. The ceremony held for his acceptance of Islam was attended by The Ghazni governor, district chief, provincial council members, local officials, elders, ISAF soldiers and students who celebrated with him for over 3 hours. Abdul Wahed as he is now known after changing his name gave a brief speech during the ceremony and during an interview afterwards added that: "Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood, but terrorists and extremists are bringing a bad name to it."

Even during war, with all of its trials and tribulations, the purity and truth of Islam has opened another heart. This is just another in a long line of soldiers who have experienced this rejuvenation of faith, let us hope it continues and eventually helps to force the hand of the US government, making them abandon their tactics of occupation and devastation. When the people you send to destroy, become of those you seek to destroy, how long can you continue?