This Teddy Bear no picnic for Gillian


(Canscene) — Gillian Gibbons, the British school teacher in Khartoum who asked her pupils to name a teddy bear and was jailed because they chose Mohammed found herself in a potentially life-threatening position had it not been for the decision of the Sudanese government to pardon her and permit her to leave the country.

As most of the world knows, it is no sin for a devout Muslim family to name their male children Mohammed any more than for Spanish speaking people to name a child Jesus. It is clear that with many of her pupils Muslim, the naming of the bear was an act of innocence.

But just as international opinion had generated Gibbons’ pardon and she was about to leave along came a group of “liberal” Canadian Muslims. They asked concerned Canadians to send teddy bears to the Sudanese embassy in Ottawa as a pleas to free Gillian.

I don’t know how many bears were actually sent, but thank God Gillian Gibbons got away safely. Mindless stunts like these may generate publicity but at a potential cost of victims’ lives since quite apart from the Sudanese government’s decision, mobs of fundamentalists were howling in the streets for Gillian’s execution.

Heaven preserve us from well-meaning fools who value publicity for their views more than human lives.

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