Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sudan Defends Islam Against Blasphemous Teddy Bear

Sudan got around to charging Gilliam Gibbons. She's the British school teacher who blasphemed the prophet you-know-who, by - get this - letting a boy in her class suggest the name "Mohammed," which is his name.

Oops. By using you-know-who's name, I probably committed blasphemy, too. At least by Sudanese standards. Forget it. I don't live in Sudan, thank God. It's easier to write out "Mohammed,"1 than dance around it.

A few more details about Gibbons' "offense" came up in "The New York Post" today.
  • Sudan authorities say that she's guilty of inciting religious hatred. If she's found guilty (and how unlikely is that?), she'll most likely get 40 lashes. Unless Sudan follows Saudi Arabia's lead, and adds extra lashes.
  • The name "Mohammed" was suggested by one of the class - a boy in her class named Mohammed.
    • It seems that giving the name "Mohammed" to a teddy bear is blasphemous, but giving it to a boy isn't: Unless young "Mohammed" is going to have lashed and/or stoned and/or beheaded parents soon.
  • Gibbons is being charged under article 125 of the Sudanese legal code
    • This is significant, since it shows that Sudan uses a written legal code - this bizarre accusation isn't being made up out of thin air by some Sudanese official who forgot to take his medication
  • Besides lashes, Gibbons may be facing six months jail time and a fine
  • This imbroglio started when some of her pupil's parents complained about the teddy Mohammed.
  • The British government is involved. Their officials are talking with Sudanese officials. (Let's hope no British officials are accused of blasphemy.)
The Sudanese government claims that being attacked for doing something that Muslims don't like is an isolated incident. Given all the people who have been hurt and killed, from the 1972 Munich Olympics to 9/11 and the present, that's a little hard to believe.

At least the recent attacks have been over genuinely spiritual values, like the naming of teddy bears.

The Teddy Bear Conspiracy

Sudanese clerics have earned more of my respect, by clearly stating what's going on. Here's the situation, from their point of view:
  • Naming that teddy bear "Mohammed" is part of a larger Western "plot" against Islam.
  • Naming the teddy bear was intentional blasphemy.
    • "What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam."
      "It is part of the campaign of the so-called war against terrorism and the intense media campaign against Islam."
      From a statement by the Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas. (Ulemas: "the body of professional theologians who are regarded as the authority on religious law.")
  • The Muslim Council of Britain urged the Sudanese government to intervene. (Which side the Muslim Council of Britain is taking isn't clear in "The New York Post" article.)
In a way the Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas has a point. Western news media seems to have gotten over its reluctance to report atrocities committed by non-western societies, and that isn't making Islam look good. The fairly steady trickle of reports on lashings, stonings, and beheadings, in Islamic nations doesn't paint a flattering picture.

On the other hand, the recurring theme of women being lashed and stoned for peccadilloes suggests that contemporary Islam might be a tolerant and nurturing home for people who follow the practices and philosophy of the late Marquis de Sade.

Religion - or Culture?

It's easy to say that Islam is the common thread connecting burqas, beheadings, and honor killings. Particularly since the Muslims who commit these atrocities say that they're doing what Mohammed told them to, and are following the will of Allah.

There's something else that most of these expressions of sadistic jurisprudence have in common. They happen in "Islamic" countries in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The largest Islamic country in the world, in terms of numbers of Muslims, is Indonesia. That country's home to a little upwards of 200,000,000 Muslims. Even percentage-wise, Indonesia is more Islamic than America is Christian: 86% Muslim for Indonesia; 78% Christian for America, including Mormons.

Indonesia, a very Islamic country, isn't flogging women for not wearing a burqa, or beheading people for being insufficiently Islamic. In fact, the Bali nightclub bombing, back in 2002, is just one incident in continuing fight Indonesia has with Islamic groups like Jemaah Islamiyah, and Al Qaeda affiliates that want Indonesia to be an Islamic state like northern Sudan or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

There's no question, I think, that something is terribly wrong with places like Saudi Arabia and northern Sudan.

Living in Fast-Forward, Culture Shock, and All That

I don't think that the problem is necessarily Islam. Look at the map, and look at the relatively uniform culture of the countries in northern Africa and the Middle East. The impression I get is that these are places where men were living comfortably in a mosaic of tribes, living their lives in much the same way that their ancestors had since the time of Abraham.

Then, a few centuries ago, European colonial powers dragged them into the
  • Age of nation-states
  • Age of Reason
  • Age of Enlightenment
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Cold War
  • Space Race
  • Information Revolution
To people still accustomed to burqas and Sharia, a world of Barbies and sports cars must be terrifying. It's no wonder that they go a little crazy, trying to adjust.

Non-Muslims might consider the possibility that the insanely intolerant, violent, behavior of "Islamic" countries doesn't stem from Islam. The traditional cultures of many of these places were old-fashioned when Rome ruled the Mediterranean, and hadn't been forced to deal with outside ideas until the last few generations.

1 Why not "Muhammed," or one of the other Latinized spellings? I'm using an Associated Press stylebook, and that resource says that "Mohammed" is the way that the Prophet of Islam's name is spelled in English. It's one of a number of commonly-used efforts to bring that name into a language that uses the Latin alphabet.

(Thanks to "The Sudanese Name Game" for steering me to "The New York Post" article, and to "American Islamic Congress Slams Sudanese Government over Teddy Bear Case, Demands British Teacher Be Freed Immediately")

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.


Anonymous said...

You're correct that honor killing is probably an aspect of culture that predates Islam, but that does not exonerate Islam from being a strong force perpetuating it.

Under sharia law the act of a parent killing his offspring is (at the very least) decriminalized, as shown in the authoritative Shafi'i manual of sharia law "Reliance of the Traveller" pages 583-4 ("o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation: ...(4) a father or mother... for killing their offspring..." and page 587 ("o3.12 ...When an injurious crime is caused by a non-family member in cooperation with the victim's father, retaliation is only taken against the non-family member...")

"Reliance of the Traveller" is highly recommended as a reference work on sharia. It is authoritative and extremely well indexed, and very quickly puts the lie to much of the disinformation about Islam that is spread by apologists (for instance, the book has 1 sentence on the "lesser jihad" (spiritual struggle), and 7 plus pages on the "greater jihad" ("war against establish the religion." (p 599)).

Anonymous said...

In my just-posted earlier post I transposed "lesser jihad" and "greater jihad"

"Lesser jihad" is war, "greater jihad" is spiritual struggle, and "Reliance of the "Traveller" has 7 pages on "lesser jihad" and 1 sentence on "greater jihad".

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of December 1, 2008 10:24 AM and December 1, 2008 10:29 AM,

Thanks for the comment - and for correcting the transposition.

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