I haven’t said much about Gillian Gibbons, the unfortunate schoolteacher from Britain who fell afoul of religious fundamentalism in Sudan when she did a class exercise in which her class picked a name for a Teddy Bear. Unfortunately, the name the children picked was Mohammed. Because of Islamic proscriptions against making an “image” of Mohammed, she was arrested for “inciting religious hatred,” in what has to be one of the most idiotic consequences of extreme religious belief that I’ve seen. She could have received a sentence of 40 lashes but was “only” sentenced to 15 days–in a hellish Sudanese jail. You’d think that would be enough for the fanatics.

You’d be wrong:

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear “Muhammad.”

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation.

They massed in central Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed, although they did not attempt to stop the rally.

“Shame, shame on the U.K.,” protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons’ execution, saying, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”

And I’m supposed to “respect” the religious beliefs of fanatics who want to execute a woman for letting children give a name to a Teddy Bear that happens to be the name of their Prophet exactly…why?


  1. #1 sarcastico
    November 30, 2007

    I wonder how they would feel to know I named my penis “allah”. get on your knees before allah

    ok, ok, i will admit that in reality my penis is not impressive, but then i can say the same thing about the muslim god

  2. #2 BigHeathenMike
    November 30, 2007

    These people must have fabulous lives. Fabulous lives. I mean, to get this upset over the naming of a stuffed bear… Absolutely nothing bad must ever happen in Sudan. It must be a glorious haven of…oh, wait. It’s a shithole. Hm. Well then they’re just crazy with the flaming-Allah-crazy-juice.

  3. #3 Tom
    November 30, 2007

    I have a roll of toilet paper to which I am willing to give a name. Any suggestions?

  4. #4 Baratos
    November 30, 2007

    Wow. Sudan reminds me somewhat of BizarroWorld.

  5. #5 Janine
    November 30, 2007

    What I find funny anytime there is yet an other story about a mob demanding punishment over a slight to their bid sky daddy is this; your all powerful big sky daddy is hurt over by a lowly human said and cannot defend itself? What a weak big sky daddy.

  6. #6 Cuttlefish
    November 30, 2007

    The continuing saga of Gillian Gibbons
    (I predict, in a day, they’ll have magnetic ribbons
    To “show your support for the naming of bears”)
    Has reached a new peak–don’t be caught unawares.
    When the teacher was sentenced to prison this week
    Some protesters gathered in Khartoum to speak;
    Thought I, “they must see that this sentence is wrong,
    And they’re all coming out, in a mass, thousands strong,
    To rail at an outcome they see as too strict,
    And move that the Judge, right away, interdict!
    But no. I was wrong. All the protesting masses
    Had gathered together to prove themselves asses;
    A fifteen day sentence? Why, that isn’t squat–
    These protesters demand that Ms. Gibbons be shot!
    They demand execution by firing squad;
    It’s the right thing to do, and the True Will Of God.


    Islam is, they say, a religion of peace;
    Our attacks on their honor are wrong, and should cease.
    To probe this mob’s sanity surely is slander,
    We all must admit, if we’re speaking with candor.
    To call them extremists, or radical nuts,
    Is simply insulting–no ifs, ands, or buts.
    It seems when these rioters look in the mirror
    They only see goodness–it couldn’t be clearer.
    To call for the death of this teacher is brave;
    It’s the way that the Prophet, himself, would behave.
    So you see, this is peaceful, they calmly explain.
    And it makes perfect sense.*

    *if you’re bat-shit insane.


  7. #7 Janine
    November 30, 2007

    Baratos, sadly Sudan is hardly alone in this kind of behavior. It is hardly a BizarroWorld, it is well with the norm of human behavior. I can see William Donahue leading this type of mob.

  8. #8 PalMD
    November 30, 2007

    Hey, now folks, calm down. We have to respect the beliefs of others. Be tolerant. It’s disrespectful to deneg…

    Ah, fuck it, what a bunch of god-ist psychos. Let’s not let it happen here.

  9. #9 Eamon Knight
    November 30, 2007

    Absolutely nothing bad must ever happen in Sudan. It must be a glorious haven of…oh, wait. It’s a shithole.

    I suspect that’s part of the problem. When life ain’t so great, people are prime targets for demagogues. I’ve seen quotes from extremist leaders claiming this whole thing is part of some great plot of the West against Islam. The paranoia and thin-skinnedness of these idiots is amazing.

    OTOH, the commenters on the BBC site seem to be running mostly in favour of Gibbons, including from many Sudanese Muslims.

  10. #10 Jason Failes
    November 30, 2007

    Death threats in Sudan.
    Firings over FWDs in Texas.
    Jehovah’s dying for lack of blood transfusions.

    Relgion is pure insanity.

    I would feel bad/in error over developing such a strong opinion on, say, health care, where there are numerous potential strategies and policies complexly interacting, with many not actually field tested before being widely implemented, with differing predictive models, priorities, and available information to every individual in the debate. It’s hard to pass a strong judgement on any complex social issue,

    except religion, which is clearly and demonstratably millenia old rubbish, that was considered rubbish by freethinkers (eg Epicurus) even at the time they were created. It’s madness, but it does feel good to be working against something that is clearly, obviously wrong.

  11. #11 Prometheus
    November 30, 2007

    Sadly, the riots in Sudan show – once again – that humans, who can be rational, generous and kind in isolation or small groups, are often mad as rabid dogs in large groups.

    As I see it, the problem is that the “average” person – here, there, anywhere – rarely stops to think about what they believe. Most people, most of the time (or should that be all people, most of the time?) operate on an almost purely emotional, instinctual level, rarely (if ever) asking themselves “Does this make sense?”

    Whether it’s religious leaders (“Hang the blasphemous bear-namer!”), political leaders (“My country, right or wrong!”) or other demagogues (“Natural cures THEY don’t want you to know about!”), it all comes down to the same thing: an appeal to emotion over reason.

    Many of the woo-mongers (pseudo-scientific, “alternative” medical, spiritual, political) make this an explicit part of their argument. “We don’t know how it works, all we need to know is that it works!” or “You have to believe!”

    In my experience, when people in these mobs stop and think about what they’re doing (or what they’ve done) – which is, admittedly, not very often – they usually are ashamed and remorseful.

    Unfortunately, most people never think – they just feel.


  12. #12 Uncle Dave
    November 30, 2007

    Moral of the story; avoid teaching careers in certain areas of the planet.

    Reminds me of the hilarious Stoning scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, where there is a man being stoned for saying the name Jehovah. see hilarious link below

    This scene should be mandatory viewing for all Muslims and zealot christian groups.

  13. #13 Ron Franscell
    November 30, 2007

    Now the Sudanese mobs are calling for her to be shot!

    Look on the bright side: Blasphemy hasn’t been so popular since the Inquisition. Everybody’s doing it. Have you got what it takes to be a world-class blasphemer? The Bayou’s Gator has prepared a little pop quiz to help you judge your SQ (*Sacrilege Quotient). Maybe your readers would like to know!

    Just click here to start your test …

  14. #14 Antiquated Tory
    November 30, 2007

    I strongly, strongly urge you to read the post on Aqoul by someone who attended this school.
    This is far from being a display of barbarism from a society of religious lunatics.
    Nothing at all happened for months after the teddy bear was named, and it didn’t occur to the teachers, the headmaster, the kids or their parents that anyone had done anything wrong.
    Then suddenly there’s this big stink. And it turns out that the original outraged complainant to the police was not a teacher or a parent…but the office assistant.
    One possible reason that it took so long for the authorities to do anything is that they needed time to assemble their crowds of “outraged Moslems” to make a nice protest in front of the cameras.
    This is NOT some backwards cultural norm being violated. This is a piece of political theatre organized by a government fond of childish displays of inferiority complexes and not fond of exceedingly Western schools (although many of their top officials send their kids there).
    This is NOT a problem of “religion.”
    It IS a problem of “official State ideology.” Whenever a state has one, it gets used arbitrarily to justify whatever horsecrap some official feels like doing that day. This particular ideology is religious. Other ideologies have been similarly (ab)used, including the thoroughly atheistic, nominally rational and scientific one of “Communism.”
    (And no, for those of you about to suggest it, I wouldn’t place America’s faithful adherence to Locke’s ideas in quite the same category. For a start, ‘fanatical Lockian’ is an oxymoron. To continue, you really have to have an explicit State ideology for shit like this to happen. Some bad stuff of the same type has happened in the US but it just cannot build up to the same level.)

  15. #15 Uncle Dave
    November 30, 2007

    Damn you Ron!!!

    Next they will try and use a scientific “Blasphemo Meter” (decibel meter) to accurately pass judgement based your noise level of laughter.

  16. #16 DLC
    November 30, 2007

    Uh huh. more religious nuttery.
    Make a cartoon insulting Allah ? get death threats.
    write a book saying “some of islam was perverted for evil purposes” ? get a death sentence against you from half the mullahs in the world.
    make a movie in which islam is portrayed as a giant-sized house of nuts and crooks ? get knifed for it.
    If this is a “peaceful” religion, spare me the violent one.

  17. #17 Justin Moretti
    November 30, 2007

    Yet more Islam-inspired fanatics. The ghosts of Kitchener and Gordon (particularly Gordon) must be turning in their graves.

    I’ll go with Antiquated Tory – it’s political opportunism dressed up as Islam, just like all the other Islamist terrorists are. Kill the fucking lot of them, from the leaders on downwards, and maybe that way decent Muslims won’t have to cringe every time their religion is mentioned in the news.

  18. #18 Watt de Fawke
    November 30, 2007

    I wonder what they’d think of Mohammed co-starring with Jesus in a comic strip.


  19. #19 Warren
    November 30, 2007

    One wonders if it would be worthwhile to just erect a 50-foot wall around Sudan and ignore them until they’ve all jihaded each other to death.

  20. #20 Uncle Dave
    November 30, 2007

    “jesus and Mo”

    I will pretend that I did not see that blasphemous display.

    “No one is to stone Watt de Fawke until I blow this whistle!”

    Sounds even more funny when you say it aloud.

    This isn’t James Watt de Fawke is it?

  21. #21 Clare
    November 30, 2007

    “Nothing at all happened for months after the teddy bear was named, and it didn’t occur to the teachers, the headmaster, the kids or their parents that anyone had done anything wrong.”

    Yes, it had struck me too that this was perhaps a personal vendetta (waged by the disgruntled office assistant) that has now been blown into a huge global scandal by political opportunists. I’ve been reading the emails piling up in British news sites from readers, and pretty much every Muslim writer feels the whole brouhaha is nonsense as well. The Muslim Council of Britain has come out strongly against the arrest and conviction as well. It’s pretty clear that the poor woman at the center of it all only ever intended to do good, that no-one directly involved with the incident back in September thought it was worth getting worked up about – or even objected to it as far as we know, and yet several hundreds of people in the protest today, maybe more, have been persuaded of exactly the opposite.

  22. #22 Evinfuilt
    November 30, 2007

    I’m thankful that at least when I eat Pasta, the Pastafarians won’t come and try to kill me.

  23. #23 Andrew
    November 30, 2007

    Sometimes the only way to make sense of the Muslim world…

    …is with a LolCat.

  24. #24 Coin
    November 30, 2007

    And I’m supposed to “respect” the religious beliefs of fanatics who want to execute a woman for letting children give a name to a Teddy Bear that happens to be the name of their Prophet exactly…why?

    Back up. Who, exactly, is expecting you to respect these people?

    I mean, maybe somebody did, I don’t know. But it seems more likely to me that someone at some point asked you to respect those people who haven’t done anything to this woman or her teddy bear at all, but who incidentally happen to have the same religion as the Anti-Teddy-Bear group, and you one way or another wound up misconstruing this as a demand for respect for the Anti-Teddy-Bear-ists.

    I’m just saying. I really don’t think you in fact meant it this way, but in the absence of any specific reference to who it is you’re responding to– or any particularly distinctive background of people running around defending the inherent goodness of murderous mobs– a tossoff like the one at the end there kind of tends to come across as a backhanded slam on the people who just happen to have the same religion as the Anti-Teddy-Bear mob. It would be awfully easy to construe (or misconstrue, whatever) that comment as implying that 1/4 of the planet deserves no respect because someone managed to round up in one place a few thousand people who hate teddy bears.

  25. #25 aracne
    November 30, 2007

    And adding to the lunacy: for a child, the name of a teddy bear (even if it’s Muhammad) is NOT an insult.

    I remember that my mother had to wash my brother’s teddy bear when he was sleeping, because he couldn’t be separated from him. Whoever invented that idiocy sure has not ever seen an small child in his whole life.

  26. #26 Schwartz
    November 30, 2007

    I’m amazed at how many smart people here are really missing the point. Do you all really think this is about religion? If you do, you are far more naive than I thought.

    This has a lot more to do with poor angry people than it does with religion. Religion is a convenient excuse to make a point. It is also the most convenient method in places like Sudan to incite disaffected people. I’m not justifying the religious conspirators in this, but to blame it all on religion is pretty ignorant.

    I wonder what the percentage of unemployed men between the ages of 15 and 25 there are in Sudan?

    But if ranting about religion gets your goat, don’t forget to wash the sand out of your ears when you come up for air.

  27. #27 Rjaye
    November 30, 2007

    I just wonder who the powers that be were hoping to impress with this display? What’s the point? Don’t mess with us, big mean Western influences?

    The problem is that whatever message the protesters (and instigators) were trying to send only came across as excessive nonsense, destroyed by whatever filter it was forced through. If people would just get to the point sometimes, it might actually do some good, or at least people can be critical of the actual meaning of the dumbass action done.


  28. #28 Robin Peters
    December 1, 2007

    When I first learned of this story, I wondered one thing. Many baby Muslim boys are named Muhammad. If it’s wrong to name a teddy bear Muhammad because the teddy bear represents an image of the founder of Islam (an act considered blasphemous in that religion), then why are so many Muslim boys named Muhammad? The teddy bear and all those little boys are all images of Muhammad in a way.

  29. #29 Kris Verburgh
    December 1, 2007

    Religious fundamentalists definitely have no sense of humor 🙂

  30. #30 Uncle Dave
    December 1, 2007

    Middle eastern nations and powers that be have been very successful at blaming the west for many of their own problems.
    When governments get into trouble they pull out the western influence card and blame western civilization for problems of thier own creation.
    They have done this for many years, it’s just that in the last 30 they have gained wealth and influence from oil money and have become more dangerous. Many of these governments have created their own monsters that some will possibly be unable to control; like Pakistan.

    As some have correctly pointed out, this is not about Islam and never has been. This is about government manipulation and a so far successful automatic response of pointing the finger at the west for internal problems of third world nations.

  31. #31 Prometheus
    December 2, 2007

    I’ll have to agree that this has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with politics. Islam is simply a tool used to whip up an insta-mob.

    Regrettably, the more poor, ignorant and desperate the people are, the easier it is for some demagogue to whip them into a frenzy. It doesn’t have to make sense, or even be internally consistent, because it is all about bypassing reason and appealing directly to fear, anger, and resentment.

    If you think that this is a purely Muslim “thing”, I would encourage you to drop in on some of the lists and Yahoo groups that cater to the mercury-causes-autism radicals (now morphing into vaccines-cause-autism radicals). Their rhetoric is only slightly less inflammatory than that of the mobs in Sudan – which is due more fear of legal action than any difference in the depth of emotion and unreason.

    No, the situation in Sudan is only superficially about religion. The real issue is about political power. Just as it is anywhere demagogues are inciting a mob. Religion is simply a convenient means to stir up anger and fear.


  32. #32 Orac
    December 2, 2007

    Here’s the problem: Fundamentalist religion is arguably the single most powerful tool demagogues can use to whip up mob frenzy like this. The irrational thinking, intolerance, and desire to exclude or demonize unbelievers are tailor-made to be manipulated in this manner.

  33. #33 greg
    January 9, 2008

    Sadly Sudan is hardly alone in this kind of behavior. It is hardly a BizarroWorld, it is well with the norm of human behavior.

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