School teacher arrested for naming a teddy bear "Mohammed" *update*

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    LONDON, England (CNN) -- UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that officials were working to secure the early release of a British teacher who faces being whipped in Sudan after she allowed her class to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."
    [​IMG] An undated amateur photo of Gillian Gibbons.


    Gillian Gibbons, 54, has been accused of blasphemy and is being held by police in the capital Khartoum, Kirsty Saunders, British Foreign Office spokeswoman told CNN.
    Police arrested the school teacher after she asked her class of seven-year-olds to come up with a name for the toy as part of a school project, according to widespread media reports.
    Parents of students at the Unity High School in Khartoum informed the authorities and Gibbons was taken into custody Sunday, Saunders told CNN.
    So far Gibbons has yet to be charged with any offense, however, under Sudanese law, insulting Islam is punishable with 40 lashes, a jail term of up to six months or a fine, she said.
    However, a Sudanese official told CNN that if police decided that Gibbons had acted in good faith, she would most likely be spared punishment.
    "If the intentions are good, definitely she will be absolved and will be cautioned not to repeat this thing again," Mutrif Siddig, Sudan's under secretary for foreign affairs, said.
    Saunders said that under Sudan's laws a person can be held for no more than 24 hours without charge.
    Asked if British authorities were concerned that Gibbons had been held for longer than that time, she said "we are happy that all the correct procedures are being followed."
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was "very sorry" about Gibbons' arrest and that the British embassy in Khartoum was "giving all appropriate consular assistance to her."
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    He said all efforts were being taken to ensure her early release and that government officials were in touch with the teacher's family in the northern British city of Liverpool.
    A representative for her two grown up children -- her daughter Jessica and son John -- told CNN they wished to be left alone until their mother was released.
    Gibbons had been working at the school -- popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates -- since August, after leaving her position as deputy headteacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer.
    On her entry on the social networking Web site MySpace, Gibbons wrote: "I am a teacher in a school in Khartoum, in Sudan. I like to make the most out of life."
    According to the entry, she said her passion was travel and she was hoping to make the most of her time in Sudan by visiting nearby countries.
    According to a report in The Times newspaper, Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.
    A member of the Sudanese government told CNN Muslim parents at the school informed the authorities after considering that her actions were offensive to their faith.
    Mutrif Siddig, Sudan's under secretary for foreign affairs, said: "To give the name of Mohammed to this teddy bear, it was considered as insult by some parents. And this school is mixed, it is not all Christian students."
    Gibbons was recruited to work in Sudan by QTS Worldwide, an education consultancy based in the northern county of West Yorkshire.
    Eric Liddell, who runs QTS, refused to comment on the incident but said that he had spoken to members of the Unity High School staff, who were hopeful that the British teacher would be released.

    Separately, CNN contacted a member of staff, who confirmed the school had been shut down temporarily as a result of the incident involving Gibbons. He refused to give his name and said no other members of staff were available.
    He said the school may open again soon, possibly as early as tomorrow.
  2. :tdown:
  3. This is unbelievable.
  4. Why on earth do they have to close the school for the whole day because of this incident.

    Actually the Sudan children decided to name the teddy bear Mohammed. Why does the teacher have to be punished because of this?

    I thought that Mohammed is a name of a prophet. He is not "God or deity". As a Christian, I don't think it's offensive (but rather cute) to name a stuff animal Peter, Paul, John, Timothy, etc... I guess I'm too open minded to see that it is offensive. Sometimes we have to have humor in our life.
  5. a teddy bear? this would be funny if this story wasnt true!

    its just a name...why are they going on about this? guess people dont have individual rights.
  6. Unreal. Totally and unbelievable unreal.

    I pray she gets the hell out of there. Unwhipped.
  7. Different cultures have different beliefs and different reverance for their religious figures. Just because we think it's OK does not mean that it might not offend someone else. I don't condone religious oppression of any kind but sometimes westerners are clueless about this stuff and it gets them into trouble.

  8. Did you read the Time article? The school feared for reprisals from Islamic extremists, that's why they shut it down.

    From the last bit of the Time article (,8599,1687755,00.html):

    Most parents arriving at the school gates were supportive of the British teacher. One mother, whose seven-year-old son was in Gibbons' class, said her family had not been offended by the name. "Our Prophet Muhammad tells us to be forgiving," she said. "So she should be released. She didn't mean any of this at all."

    I like that saying. She's most def didn't mean any harm. I was hoping though, that she was more aware of the local (Sharia) law, so that when the students offered the name Muhammad, she knew better not to accept it as to not cause problems.

    I hope they can convinced the authorities and release her soon.

  9. Exactly Roo. I can understand why some of them are offended. The teddy bear, although only a toy, represents an animal. Muhammad is the last prophet in Islam that is highly regarded.

    That said, I know she's most def didn't mean any harm. She was just clueless. That's why I said in my previous post I hoped she was more familiar with the local law.

    I don't want to see her get punished for this, this is just a misunderstanding. Sharia law can be tough and some of the punishments are physical and very harsh, that even I as a Moslem can't accept them.

  10. Yes we are all clueless. I would rather be clueless than having to deal with something so outrageous as punishing someone by flogging because the naming of a toy. Muhammed is one of the most common names around the world. So whether the children or the teacher named the toy, it was what that saw as a name commonly used.

  11. You are right about differ culture have differ beliefs.

    I see it as offensive if they name a dog or pig after that name. Mohammed is a common name and thousands use that name (even murderers and convicts). A teddy bear that represents security, soft&cuddly, and loved-cherished by all children is not offensive to me. On the other hand, to an Extremist is different.
  12. Sad how the extremists forget to remember this bit.
  13. there is no joke or room for terrorist anytime any where in the world now.
  14. Technically she didn't insult Islam, so she doesn't deserve the 40 lashes. (Without getting into it, nobody does.)

    They should extradite her back to England.
  15. I do not buy the cultural relativity bs. Not only is it an unsound argument (think of all the crimes it could justify), it is just plain dangerous.
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