They are not rational

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Once again, a Muslim theocracy has demonstrated its inability to act rationally in the face of a perceived violation of Islamic law.

Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old British teacher teaching in Sudan, was jailed for letting her class of seven-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohamed. She has been charged with insulting religion and inciting hatred. She could face up to 40 lashes and six months' imprisonment under Sudan's sharia law.

Anyone who reads newspapers or watches TV news is well aware that Moslems regard any image of the prophet of Islam to be blasphemous. So did the teacher intentionally defy a rule that she should have been aware of? Not really. The teddy bear, which was taken home each weekend by a different pupil who kept a diary of its activities, was not named after the prophet of Islam. The students voted to name the teddy bear after a fellow student.

There is some irony in the fact that people belonging to a religion so fanatically protective of the name of their primary prophet would make it a common practice to give boys the name Mohamed. In light of this practice, how can naming a teddy bear after a child who was named after Mohamed be regarded as a clearly understood violation of the law?

The answer is that it cannot. The arrest of the teacher was not motivated by a desire for justice. It was not a rational act.

An influential association of clerics and Islamic scholars, known as the Sudanese Assembly of Ulemas, suggested the teddy bear incident was part of a broader Western plot against Islam. According to a statement issued by Ulemas, the plot is exemplified "in the writings of renegade Salman Rushdie and the blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed."

Regarding the actions of the teacher, Ulemas concluded, "What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles plotting against Islam. It is part of the campaign of the so-called war against terrorism and the intense media campaign against Islam".

If there was any foolishness exhibited by Gibbons, it was her decision to live in a nation dominated by religious fanatics. Unfortunately, Sudan is not the only country where fanatics establish national policy.

People who expect tolerance and rationality should avoid being in any such country.