Home | News    Tuesday 27 November 2007

Sudan accuses British teacher of insulting Islam’s Prophet


November 26, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — A British primary school teacher has been arrested in Sudan, accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohammed, her school said on Monday.

Police arrested Gillian Gibbons, 54 of Liverpool, on Sunday at her home inside the Unity High School premises after a number of parents complained to Sudan’s Ministry of Education, said Unity director Robert Boulos.

The country’s state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre reported late Sunday that Gibbons had been accused of "insulting the Prophet Mohammad". It said charges were being prepared "under article 125 of the criminal law" which covers insults against faith and religion.

Teachers at the school in central Khartoum said Gibbons made an innocent mistake and simply let her pupils choose their favourite name for the toy as part of a school project.

"We are very worried about her safety," he added. "This was a completely innocent mistake. Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam."

A spokesman from the British Embassy in Khartoum said she had not yet been charged with violating state law against insulting religion. An embassy official visited her on Monday and said she was in good health but shaken.

If convicted, Gibbons could be sentenced to 40 lashes, six months in prison or a fine, said Ghazi Suleiman, the head of the Sudan Human Rights Group.

No one was immediately available for comment from Sudan’s ministries of Education or Justice.

Boulos said he had decided to close down the school until January for fear of reprisals in Sudan’s predominantly Muslim capital. "This is a very sensitive issue."

Earlier Gibbons’ colleagues said they feared for her safety after receiving reports that young men had started gathering outside the Khartoum police station where she was being held. But a Reuters witness at the police station said no one was gathering there.


Boulos said Gibbons was following a British National Curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and their habitats. This year’s animal was the bear.

Gibbons, who joined Unity in August, asked a girl to bring in her teddy bear to help the Year 2 class focus, said Boulos.

The teacher then asked the class to name the toy. "They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Mohammed. Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name." Twenty out of the 23 children chose Mohammed.

Each child was allowed to take the bear home at weekends and asked to write a diary about what they did with the toy. Each entry was collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover, next to the message "My name is Mohammed," said Boulos.

The bear itself was not marked or labelled with the name in any way, he added, saying Sudanese police had now seized the book and had asked to interview the 7-year-old girl.

Boulos said the first he knew about the course was last week when he got a phone call from the Ministry of Education, saying a number of Muslim parents had made formal complaints.

One Muslim teacher at Unity, who also has a child in Gibbons’ class, said she had not found the project offensive.

"I had no problem with it at all," the teacher said. "I know Gillian and she would never have meant it as an insult. I was just impressed that she got them to vote."

Unity, an independent school founded in 1902, is governed by a board representing major Christian denominations in Sudan, but teaches both Christians and Muslims aged 4 to 18.


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  • 27 November 2007 02:33, by Dhieu Dok

    At my own perspective, no one has insulted the prophet. Of course children know much about Mohamed and that’s the reason the chose his name. The problem is being complicated by islamists, who are slaves of their own beliefs.

  • 27 November 2007 02:49, by Angelo Achuil

    In my opinion, most of those children named the toy "mohammed" because either because they like him, or because the name is popular. If anybody wanted to arrest anybody over this issue, it should had been the student who came up with the name. Why should be punish for her student’s ignorance?
    Justice is practically useless if not dead in Sudan!

  • 27 November 2007 05:12, by BORAnyidi

    Dear brothers

    the British teacher has to know that she is in country where there is no freedom of speech. second to that, she has been teaching there for awhile, and also she has been reading some books about certain things you can not do and make a joke about them in muslims world. my brothers, I would like you to know that I am not supporting what the educational department did. I am just worried about her insecurity because there are things that happened recently like the journalist that was killed few months ago because of his insulting their prophet.

    • 27 November 2007 17:45, by green_howards

      My opinion is that the teacher meant no disrespect to Muslims,but the fanatics as usual taking advantage.

      I hope my government "British" stops all aid to Sudan.

  • 27 November 2007 06:07, by James James

    I completely failed to understand whether the constitution that protect religion in Sudan is the one that protect Islamic faith olone or any religion in that country. well,Should be a constitution that had been deliberately formilated to protect Islam according to me, because I remember few years ago, Sudan army forces used to burn churches, smoke with christian Bible pages, change churches into military baracks and so forth.

    By the way,if Muhamed is true God, then he has enough powers to punish whoever insult him without expecting help from Bashir and his police.

    So if that is the case, Mr. Gibbon should be release mediately because even the children who chose Muhamed as the name for their teddy bears were not his in first place.therefore the charges against him will be baseless behind reasonable doubt.

  • 27 November 2007 08:09, by YihHon Alewei

    What is state rules, religion rules and other social issues rules?

    Why don’t we judge ourselves! This is kids school fun lesson and has nothing to do with whoever you do called "prophet mohamed"!

    I don’t know what kind of constitution do Sudan have! Is there any article in Sudan contitution stated that, anybody mentioning mohamed name in a joke conversation should be arrested! Taking Miss Gibbons to prison is immoral!

    If prophet mohamed have been insulted, then government is not the right agents to sue Miss Gibbons but the imam of islam is the one who have the right to take Miss Gibbons to prison if so!

    We are still confusing the two, state and religion! These two things are completely different bodies!

    It is really a big shame for khartuom government to take such action without any justification of the mistake! It is not a crime to mention prophet mohamed! One other thing is, all kids in Khartuom know only mohamed, becuase everyone is called mohamed! They have a right to rename Tedd Bear with islam prophet because it is popular! It is not an offence!

    Those who have arrested Miss Gibbons will be reponsible for the dire situation she has been taken to! This is irresponsible action by the police authority who have no knowledge about what their role as police men was!

    Be smart with your thinking about all social matters!

  • 27 November 2007 18:45, by Stefano Wieu Francis (BA. Philisophy)

    Common!!! Let’s be categorical, Gillian Gibbons is being innocently detained. The children suggested names such as Abdullah, Hassan, Mohammed ( of course not " prophet Mohammed") and I think if they were to be familiar with other names like Deng, Jesus, Lokudu,Uthou etc, they might have also included them but just because they were not familiar with those names, the innocent kids stated them and they voted and twenty out of twenty three won. So why not arresting the children who voted for Mohammed? However, this might be risky because the children might have been referring to Mohammed in their class or another Mohammed in Sug El Arabi and not the " prophet" of course.Let us be realistic and try to differentiate religion, politics and our cultural life.

  • 27 November 2007 22:53, by Ben-Fu

    The real insult is framing a teacher of 7years old kid not smart enough about religion and trying to hurt others in the Name of Prophet Mohammed, especially not realizing that a 7years old knew not much. Does Mohammed teachings produce provocative motives to his followers? It would be a shame to Mohammed followers if they fake it.

  • 28 November 2007 15:10, by James Banak Monyror

    The behavior of these fanatics is real cause of shame to the majority of Sudanse. Why do you twist the justic system in broad day light! These kids were told by their teacher in good faith to give a name to the toy bear. The teacher did not tell them to give so and so names. Each kid gave a name familiar to him/her. It happened that among the names given, the name Mohamed was chosen by one of the kids. The names were even put on voting which indicate the popularity the name, perhaps due to the fact that it is the name of the mosilem Prophet.

    In such a situation why not invetigate the kids who happened to have suggested the name in the first place. Does the Sudan justic system work like this or is it because she happened to be a foreigner and a christian. I know this can even be applicable to any Sudanese who happen to be a none moselim . There were situations. There were similar occasions when none moselim offenders were inticed to Islam if they were to free their necks from instant justice

  • 29 November 2007 17:26, by Dere Gun

    This entire ordeal is obsurd, and an embarrassment not only to Muslims but to all of Sudan. The teacher firstly had no intent to hurt anyone, and secondly even if she did; How insecure are we!?!? Considering many of the stories of the Prophet and how he endured insults with all forbearance, this is how Sudan decides to react to a fake preceived threat?

    One word describes this: Pathetic

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