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!


Anonymous said...

My grandma used to say "this world is going to hell in a handbasket". Amazing how those words jumped into my head when I read that article.
I find absolutely no validity to such idiocy. This woman who has devoted herself to teaching not only christian children, but muslim children as well is being undeservedly abused (I use that word for lack of a better one), as in the case of the young Saudi rape victim, by people who obviously do not represent the very religion they hold so dear. Punishment for a name? Would the prophet be so offended that children chose his name because to them it was the best? Would he punish a woman who allowed those children to learn that there are ways people make decisions other than by killing each other? Or would his reaction be to smile that so many children chose his name above others because to them it represents goodness and fairness? What will it do to these children to see their beloved teacher treated as a criminal because of a decision she allowed them to make?
It is another example of mindless, blind ignorance hiding behind the veil of religion. It is disgusting.It is cruel. It is undeserved and it is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Pied Piper of Haraam

There's a little bear
Like I hope you've never seen before
Who's a lot of fun
Children everywhere,
Grow to love him more and more, but it’s not the fastest growing religion anymore
He's was the number one, excepting the real Muhammad and Allah, praise him
There's a million stories to be told
Of the things that he's done
And he's gonna share them all with you
So come along

Oh Muhammad, Muhammad the Bear
Everyone sing his name, or else die
Muhammad, Muhammad the Bear
Everyone come and join
In all of his games, unless you’re female
There is Badger Bill
Lily Tiger-Lily, I assume because she is covered too,
And a whole lot more
They are Muhammad's friends
And they're waiting here for you
So unlock the door but don’t you dare remove that veil
There's a magic land not far away
And they call it Sudan
Where you'll meet a little teddy bear in chains
And if you are good and have a thick skin, you might just live to tell the tale

Anonymous said...

well, i read the article, and i saw that there was exagerrationa and a big fault too, exageration for punish the woman, and afault made by this woman cause i think she isnt moron or dumb, she is teaching in one country counted islamic that means she is aware that such behaviores like that can lead to very bad results and isntead she end the story by a simple way and say "ogh let us change name we cant call an animal by a prophet name" she accepted the choice, i cant see really that she is innocent at 100% may be she was disappointed ( i can hardly belive that, story happened in sudan), but i think story could be ended othewise and far from all this trouble.
about the saudian girl hmmm; ufffffffffffffff,allah is greatest that's all hope the truth and justice will find a way to pop up highly.........

Al said...

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

- Albert Einstein

Idlan said...

A lot of this doesn't make sense to me. It seems there is a side to this story that we either do not know (because western media refuses to depict this, maybe?). Today on BBC Radio 4 it was described that this woman was accused of being blasphemous - and yet how can she be, for we do not worship the prophet, merely revere him as the Messenger of God?

On another note, sells a Muslim teddy bear called Adam - is he not a prophet too?

But it matters not to the Sudanese authorities, I suppose. It'll be just me embarassed for the misrepresentation of my religion yet again. Can we sue the related Sudanese authorities for "tarnishing the image of Islam" instead?

Elm said...

As'salamu alaikum
I don't know much about that British teacher's story except what I saw on BBC.I do agree with you that the Sudanese should have dealt with that situation with wisdom and patience.
For the first paragraph of your writing:
"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"
Tearing down the ideals of compassion??We tear down the ideals of compassion by following Allah's laws? You are talking about a married woman who was cheating on her husband.She commited adultery.She should have been stoned to death.But,Instead she got 200 lashes, yet we feel sorry for her and forget what Allah tells us about those commiting adultery.

Anonymous said...

This young woman was not commitiing adultery, she was retrieving a picture from a friend who happened to be male. Regardless what she was doing, what the men did is the crime. They brutally raped her- 7 men! There is no excuse for such action. Does a woman's mistake give men free reign to do such a thing? Of course not. Where does the Koran absolve judgement from common sense?

Hamza Hashem said...

I would like to say thank you to all who have commented on this article and apologize for my late response. So I will try to address each comment individually -

Anonymous #1 – While I don’t see the importance of stressing whom she teaches, the fact is she is a teacher, furthermore all teachers are well known for not getting paid well and I doubt the Sudan provided anymore in that department. As for the Saudi rape victim I suggest reading the article on my feelings were made clear on this in the comments section of this article.

As for the teddy bear – While I understand the nature of their complaint I find it truly disturbing that we allow ourselves to be dragged down to such levels that this wasn’t handled on an individual lever, or scholastic level, but that it was drawn into the Ministry of Justice. To then defend the decision to me is ridiculous as it is obvious to those whom knew and worked with her (Muslims included) that she had no intent to insult Islam or promote hate. I tend to agree with so many of the Sudanese people I have seen who think it is just another way for the government to hide their own deficiencies (see Darfur or the non existent Sudanese infrastructure) that are crippling the country or at least holding it back from becoming a stronger nation.

Anonymous #2 – While appreciate you creativity, I found the sarcasm and insulting nature of your comment a bit offending. It is obvious not all Muslims agree with this as not even all Sudanese agree with it. Perhaps using the creativity in a more constructive manner would be better served.

Anonymous #3 – It seems you are making a lot of assumptions on what she does or does not know. Let me tell you that I, who is a Muslim would not have found it nearly this insulting. I probably would not have named it Muhammad myself; I certainly would not have condemned her for this in such a way. Muhammad is a name, not the person. She did not say it was the Rasool or imply it in anyway. If we are to take this action then why not add extra sentence to any criminal named Muhammad or for that matter, sentence their parents for naming a criminal Muhammad. Regardless of the differences, I don’t think any logical person assumes this could not or should not have been handled drastically different.

Al – nice Einstienism

Idlan – She was charged with Insulting Islam with a side order of inciting hate. Neither is really applicable in this case. There are numerous toys for children with similar names such as the one you pointed out, but then again you also have those who argue against the use of toys altogether. So in the end we will still be unable to please the sensibilities of everyone, as they will all decide on their own versions and interpretation of what to follow. Let us pray the Wisdom, Patience, and Compassion of Islam eventually win out instead of the interests of local political agendas.

Elm – Walekum el Salam,

I am glad we can at least agree on one issue and that being the issue of “wisdom and patience” Now as for the rest of it let me deal with it as you write it.

We are only following Allah’s law when all aspects are followed not when we pick and choose. She was a married woman indeed, however her ‘confession’ was not one of adultery it was that she had been alone in the car with a man not related to her while trying to retrieve a picture from him. When last I checked this does not correspond to adultery. Furthermore who are the witnesses that she was caught cheating on her husband? Is not it also part of Allah’s law that we have 4 witnesses to her crime? If it is so clear and the fact so evident, why was the lawyer stripped of his license so that he cannot defend his client. Why was he and another observer asked to leave the courtroom leaving her defenseless. Why is everyone focusing on her and not the rest of the case? She should have been stoned? Then what should have happened to the 7 Rapists? If so then why have we not heard anything whatsoever about the man she was with. Should not he also be stoned? Should he also not have been sentenced to the same as she was?

No because she is a woman, because she is a Shiaa perhaps, but whatever the case is it is wrong. I will not try to be subtle in any way. This is a travesty and we as an Ummah should feel ashamed that this case has been conducted as it has. We should not be afraid to question Saudi Arabia just because it is Saudi Arabia. We should speak against wrong no matter where it is. She did not confess to having an affair nor were there witnesses, above and beyond that she was also raped and is now made to feel the victim yet again. I respect your right to have your opinion however I find fault in it. Bring forth your witnesses (who are not rapists) and let the case be resolved in a real trial.

Anonymous #4 – Our Judgment and common sense should be in line with each other and inline with Quran. However it is not always the case and we see what happens. Let us pray that the Wisdom of Allah’s divine command sets in the minds of the judge and other Ministry of Justice officials involved in this case.

Anonymous said...

i just read the article right now. I Know its late, but i just wanted to comment on the woman who was charged on adultery. i think it was stupid of her to be in a car with a stranger keeping in mind that she is married.And that her actions might lead others to suspect the worst especially in a country like Saudi. However, how stupid her actions were it should not have resulted to this severe punishment. As for the teddy bear incident the same could be said for the teacher. Her intentions might have been innocent Allahu A3lam but still she should have thought twice about that particular name keeping in mind she is in a mouslim country. Anyway didnt one of the Ivy league colleges kick a professor for comparing Bush to a Nazi? So why is the media angry at the decision of the Sudanes army?

Anonymous said...

oops i meant Sudanese government

Hamza Hashem said...

I appreciate you comment and no comment is ever late. Regarding the married woman, I would agree it was not the best decision to be in the car with a man to whom she was not related. However I think people are forgetting or perhaps just not focusing on the fact it was not this man who raped her, so I think her decision is irrelevant to her rape case specifically. Furthermore for the Saudi government to punish her in such a manner is disgracfeful and all who support the Saudi government have failed to understand her case (where are the 4 male witnesses against her in the adultery charge? If in fact she had admitted, where is the man she allegedly had relations with as it is a crime for him and he should have been charged and had opportunity to defend himself as well – to make but 2 of many points).

Moving on to the Teddybear case – As details came out it seems as if it was one disgruntled employee who wanted to cause trouble for the school, and so she picked the easiest target. In the end for anyone feeling the teacher meant to insult Islam or Muslims by naming it Muhammad, I think we should realize this project had gone on for several months and no parent complained. It only arose when one person decided to cause trouble (and she did not even have a child in the class). It is a name and the name does not make the person or a Muslim, be it Muhammad or Mike, it is irrelevant. The project itself was something good for children and if it had not been named Muhammad- no one would have ever mentioned anything.

Ana said...

Selam alaikum Bro Hamza,

Thank you for showing me your Blog. It's late so I will be brief:-
1] The Rape case: Has there been any word on the punishment towards the rapists, OR is it okay to rape because a married woman was at the wrong place with the wrong man?

2] Teddybear case: How can our Ummah progress when we are stuck having to deal with situations like this?

Islam has clear law on rapists for the former; and where is the crime committed in the latter?

Our beloved prophet Muhammad (saw) last words... "Ummati, Ummati!" May Allah guide us all...ameen.

Anonymous said...

assalamualaikum, as for the teddy bear incident, sure it was incorrect, but you need to see it in a different light, those people just made a mistake, they thought that she was insulting the prophet (sallallahu 'alaihe wa sallam), of course, there is no basis for this,m and a person is only punished if it is absolutely certain that it is an insult, but a mistake is a mistake, after all she did get freed.

As for the saudi rape victim, she wasn't lashed for being raped, she was lashed for being alone with a non-mahram man, whether you agree with this or not is a whole different story since there is no hadd punishment for being with a non-mahram man.