Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beyond the Teddy Bear: Sudan, the Darfur Genocide, and Islam

That Gillian Gibbons, a British school teacher, being likely to get 40 lashes - more, if a judge feels like it - is serious. Particularly since the Sudanese government seems to bent on making an example of this dangerous infidel.

People in a moderate Sufi sect were distributing leaflets in Khartoum's Arab market, by the city's Great Mosque. They want the (Muslim) faithful to protest.
"What has been done by this infidel lady is considered a matter of contempt and an insult to Muslims' feelings and also the pollution of children’s mentality as an attempt to wipe their identity," is what the leaflet says.
(TimesOnline.co.uk)
That "moderate Sufi sect" wants a million people to protest in the streets after prayers tomorrow.

Stay tuned?

Sixteen hours ago, as I'm writing this, another blogger posted "Gillian Gibbons and Sudan - why is nobody mentioning Darfur?" I followed the link (http://casabill.blogspot.com/2007/11/gillian-gibbons-and-sudan-why-is-nobody.html), and got a "Page Not Found" message. Checking the blog confirmed that yesterday's post has been removed.

2 questions:
  1. Why was that blog post removed?
  2. Why isn't Darfur being discussed, in connection with the blasphemous teddy bear?
Although I'd love to cook up some wild conspiracy theory, it's much more likely that the blogger who posted that Gibbons - Sudan - Darfur piece wasn't forced to delete it. I generally write offline, check what I've written, and then post a finished work. Not everyone works that way, and I've occasionally posted in haste: then repented (and re-written) at comparative leisure.

Bill, the blogger whose post I wrote about, left a comment a little while ago. He explained what happened, and told me where to find that post. Here is the new, improved, and - now - correct link: Gillian Gibbons and Sudan - why is nobody mentioning Darfur?. Thanks for the help, Bill!

Why isn't Darfur being discussed in articles about Gillian Gibbons and the terrible teddy bear?

My guess is that it's very, very, hard for many people to think about the connection. Particularly people in the 'better' and 'more intelligent' circles.

I'll get back to that, after a little background about Sudan.

Darfur? Sudan? Where's That?

Since Darfur, and for that matter, Sudan, aren't among the best-known places in the world, Here's some background. The following facts are from The CIA's "The World Factbook." That document is a great deal more detailed - and polite - than my summary.

Sudan lies south of Egypt, with borders on Egypt, the Red Sea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Lybia. Sudan's capital is Khartoum. Darfur is a border region of Sudan, bordering Chad and the Central African Republic.

Northern Sudan is mostly Muslim, Arab, and hasn't been doing too well, economically. Southern Sudan is mostly Non-Muslim, Non-Arab, and has been relatively prosperous. The country got independence from Britain in 1956.

Since then, there have been a string of military regimes with Islamic leanings and/or Islamic governments in Sudan. Also, two major civil wars: mostly over the unfair (?) way that non-Muslims were doing better than Muslims. (My comment - with Sudanese Muslims focusing their energies on saving Islam from things like teddy bears, is it any wonder that non-Muslims make more money in Sudan?)

Having an Islamic (Sudan style) government may help one facet of the Sudanese economy, though.
"Sudan is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation; Sudan may also be a transit and destination country for Ethiopian women trafficked for domestic servitude; boys are trafficked to the Middle East, particularly Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for use as camel jockeys; small numbers of girls are reportedly trafficked within Sudan for domestic servitude as well as for commercial sexual exploitation in small brothels in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps...."
Here's a list of religious beliefs in Sudan:
  • 70% Sunni Muslim (in north)
  • 5% Christian(mostly in south and Khartoum)
  • 25% indigenous beliefs

The Darfur Genocide: a Non-Crisis that Never Happened?

I could be mistaken, but it seems that the Darfur genocide was ignored until 2004, when then- U. S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said
"that genocide has occurred in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and that genocide may still be continuing." Following that, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, unanimously declared "that the atrocities unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, are genocide."
Around that point, the genocide became a non-crisis that wasn't happening, and an American plot. Some anonymous USAID workers cited in "The Guardian" (UK) said that the Americans were using the wrong numbers. The UN World Food Programme used a survey and decided that, although people were going hungry, the crisis (non-crisis?) was being handled well. And, that USAID head Andrew Natsios, who told UN officials that "We estimate right now, if we get relief in we'll lose a third of a million people and, if we don't, the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people." was lying.

Later, the USAID assistant administrator, Roger Winter, told foreign journalists that the numbers were 30,000 killed during the 'on-going crisis in Darfur,' on top of 50,000 people dying from malnutrition and disease. He still said that the situation was a "humanitarian disaster of the first magnatude."

"The Guardian" had an explanation, and an insinuation:
"Under the Bush administration, the work of USAID has become increasingly politicised. But over Sudan, in particular, two of its most senior officials have long held strong personal views. Both Natsios, a former vice-president of the Christian charity World Vision, and Winter have long been hostile to the Sudanese government."
You hear that? "Christian charity World Vision! Maybe those Christians are part of the plot against Islam. You know, the one that Gillian Gibbons and the blasphemous teddy bear are in on.

I'd prefer to be wrong about this, but I think that there's much better than even odds that the Darfur genocide isn't getting much attention because mostly-Muslim and Arab outfits are killing mostly-non-Muslim, non-Arab people. Worse yet, quite a few of the non-Muslims are Christian. And African. Black.

That leaves traditional news media on the horns of a dilemma. Blacks are being slaughtered and starved to death by Caucasians. That's news!

But, these Caucasians aren't the European sort. They're Arabs: and as non-Europeans, aren't part of the oppressor class. In fact, they're part of the oppressed class. Just ask the Palestinians. (I know: the Middle Eastern situation isn't that simple - just like someone from the sovereign state of Georgia might not appreciate being called a Yankee.)

With such a confusion of oppressors and oppressees, I'm afraid that it's 'way too easy for me to see the Darfur genocide as a tragedy that got ignored because it doesn't fit the standard western-oppression editorial model.

Back to the Teddy Bear

My guess is that Gilliam Gibbons, and Mohammed the Teddy Bear, will be back in the news tomorrow, when a massive spontaneous demonstration is planned in Khartoum.

Posts on "British Teacher Home from Sudan: Gillian Gibbons, Muslim Clerics, and a Teddy Bear named Mohammed"

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

2 comments:

Bill said...

Hello, I noticed (through Tecnorati) that you have commented on the removal of a post in my blog http://casabill.blogspot.com .

There is absolutely nothing 'sinister' in this, simply an idiotic mistake on my part; I have two blogs and I posted that entry in the wrong one by mistake. You will find the exact same post in my other blog, posted just before I removed it from the blog above, which is reserved solely for entries about Spain and my property there. Y
The post may now be viewed here:
http://billcameron.blogspot.com/2007/11/gillian-gibbons-and-sudan-why-is-nobody.html

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Bill,

Thanks for this comment!

"Been there, done that." I put a post on the wrong blog a few months back.

I'll edit a correction into this post.

Brian

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.