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Teddy bear teacher – was she naive?

November 29, 2007

Teacher Gillian Gibbons, who was jailed in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad, has been pardoned by the country’s president.

She was sentenced last Thursday to 15 days in jail for insulting Islam.

Gibbons, 54, had left her home town of Liverpool in July and had only been in Sudan for four months. The case rapidly escalated into a diplomatic incident and Muslim hardliners in Sudan protested after Friday prayers. The Muslim Council of Britain has said it is “appalled.”

But should Gibbons have perhaps been more aware of the possible consequences of so naming a toy animal? She may not have been in the country long but she must have known of the furore in 2006 when a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Mohammad and of the sensibilities of producing any image of the Prophet.

Is this just a case of an innocent abroad or a serious failure to take into account the possible dangers to Westerners of living and working in strict Muslim countries?

Tell us your view.


Come off it; this is a try-on, Addison.
(1) The Sudanese kids named the teddy; the teacher didn’t.
(2) The teddy was named Muhammad after a popular boy in the class, whose name is Muhammad because Muhammad is a very common first name in the Sudan. The teddy was NOT named after the 7th century prophet.
(3) Funny that if it’s a deep-seated cultural value, etc, not to name a loved toy “Muhammad”, the Sudanese kids hadn’t heard of it.
(4) The outrage is fake, and cynically whipped up by a government engaged in genocide in Darfur, and unhappy because they’re coming under international pressure over it. Essentially, they have responded by threatening public torture for one foreign middle aged woman, and the UK government has indeed gone quiet. There are plenty of other foreign nationals in the Sudan, and the threat to them is explicit.
(5) But you go ahead and play “blame the teacher”. Genocidal murderers do need their useful idiots, after all…

Posted by Laon | Report as abusive

Quite frankly nothing surprises me any more about the depths some humain’s will go to, this is unacceptable, but some people just want to make a fight over any damned thing. This lady is obviously innocent.
People are the same all over the world, good people and bad people, these are clearly the second.
This lady should be released and the idiots who have brought this case should be put on trial for attempting to create a situation out of nothing, this kind of thing leads to racism, cultural hatred and general distrust of other peoples. If nothing is done about this then ultimately it will be the Sudanese people/children who will suffer as teachers/aid workers like this lady will not go and help them. Lets hope common sense prevails, and very quickly indeed.

Posted by RA Wilkinson | Report as abusive

Why would you even pose such a question? In what way is this helpful? It’s lazy journalism. Fill your site with the actual story and be done with it.


Presumably all the parents of boys in the class named ‘Muhammad’ are next to face trial — goodness knows that in the classes I’ve taught something nearing a third of the boys are Mo, Hammad, Mohammad or some such. But maybe my cultural training has not informed me of some subtle reason why a Muslim may name a child Mohammad, but if a Christian names something after this same child … it is an affront.

A century away from civilization, IMHO.


Posted by Raoul Lifschitz | Report as abusive

Like almost everyone else I am stunned at the reaction by the authorities. It seems irrational but from experience recently with two men attidudes from Iran we should remember they have a very different thoughts on womens status. We should make it clear the British Government expects at the least a pardon, and then get everyone out and close the doors on there Embassy. Completely different story but does anyone remember the Greek Plane Spotters who were accused of Spying and spent months in jail.


Fantical zealots playing to the Gallery as usual. Maybe it is time for True Brits to rename Guy Fawkes Night…..and put words into action.

Posted by William Fowler | Report as abusive

“But should Gibbons have perhaps been more aware of the possible consequences of so naming a toy animal?”

NO! Why should anyone live in fear of the 14th century throwbacks.

Posted by Chris king | Report as abusive

This is a total disgrace ,totally over the top
the poor lady is trying to help the Sudanese and this is what she gets in return it makes me sick .
I hope the goverment wakes up and demands this ladies release , unpunished may i add .
We need to start standing for our people not saying its out of our hands , how would the Americans react


This is just another backasswards example of the “peaceful” religion of islam… are you kidding me with this? kill a teacher thats teaching these ignorant peoples children over a damn teddy bear? why is the rest of the world supposed to not insult islam when all they do is insult the rest of the worlds religions? i’m gonna name my dooky muhhammed and then draw a picture of him with my crap. wtf!!

Posted by JEREMY | Report as abusive

This whole affair just goes to prove that Islam is the new Fascism – no free speech,no free thought, and anyone who disagrees gets jailed or murdered.

Why do we tolerate this?

Posted by Ian | Report as abusive

Nice one, Jeremy. So I can characterize Christianity by looking at the activities of the Spanish Inquisition and Fred Phelps? The Sudanese government has done something that most Muslims should find offensive and that many do. Characterizing it as typical of Islam is ridiculous. Insulting all of Islam in retaliation is stupid.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why she should be punished for naming a teddy bear after Mohammad…if depiction of the Muslim prophet is so “forbidden”, why is it then that name is so popular amongst the Muslim world? Hypocracy?

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

We have to accept that the law is the law however insensible it seems to outside observers. Let us now hope that justice in the UK will be applied with such zeal and alacrity.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

This is simply barbarism, blackmail and a cover for genocide. Why should anyone in the world show any respect for Islam when the Islamic world continually lies, murders, and blames the west for the sickening behavior?

Posted by B Hitchcock | Report as abusive

What the hell was that lady thinking? Name a teddy bear Mohammed in a country that lives by SHARIA LAW? Where did she get her degree to teach, a box of cracker jacks? What kind of a dimwitted fool instigates such a violent, reactionary sect of Islam? I mean come on people, you don’t have to be a god damned geinus to know they’d take offense, especially after the big fallout from the Mohammed cartoons in Europe. I think this lady is lucky to get out of the country in one piece.

She is obviously a fool. Jeez. Now let the Islam haters go nuts because I said the lady was an idiot.

Posted by Davis | Report as abusive

“This whole affair just goes to prove that Islam is the new Fascism – no free speech,no free thought, and anyone who disagrees gets jailed or murdered.”

Islam is NOT fascist. You freaks are redefining words left and right to suit your own hatred. It is totalitarian. It sure can be an intolerant dictatorship but by definition it is NOT fascist. You just want to bring up images of Mussalini and Hitler for your ignorant comparisons. Of course they are extreme, they live by SHARIA LAW!!! If you go there you follow THEIR LAW, not your home countries.

“Why do we tolerate this?”

Is it your country? Here’s a clue skippy, you don’t get to choose what religion people in other countries follow. If that were the case Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and most religions would be banned in the US.

Posted by Davis | Report as abusive

It should have been obvious to everyone but the most ignorant and stupid that Muslims are probably the least tolerant people on earth. On top of that Sudanese Muslims, ruled by Salafists of the deepest dye have demonstrated time and again by their behaviour in Darfur that they are also among the most racist and barbaric. It does not take much to provoke their bigotry. Gibbons can’t have been a very good teacher if she was unaware of these rudimentary facts. Why then did she choose to plant herself in their midst?

Posted by k.maruf | Report as abusive

All Americans, Brits, and non-Islamic radicals should get out of uncivilized, barbaric countries such as Sudan as fast as possible. We should go, take our education and money with us and see how they like that.

This is so incredibly wrong I just don’t know where to begin.

Posted by oprasngr | Report as abusive

The Sudanese living in this country I have heard in the media talk about this, are more concerned about how their homelands reputation may suffer by its implications, than the rights or wrongs of calling a teddy bear Mohammed.

Posted by Dean Morton | Report as abusive

They should have named the teddy Samuel or Isaac.

Posted by P.Romani | Report as abusive

To all observers, the REAL mockery and insult to Islam is obvious: these cruel and bizarre actions on the part of the Islamists themselves. Not being a Muslem, I have to ask then, where are the so-called moderate Islamists to rise up and rebuke the nut-heads? The silence of these hoped-for moderates increases my level of concern. Should the whole group be dismissed as utterly irrational and/or in utter fear of themselves?

Posted by Tim Landwermeyer | Report as abusive

Naive? I don’t think so. We all know Sudan and Sharia Law-what happens to those who don’t abide by it. I don’t think there’s free speech or freedom of expression in most predominantly muslim countries look at journalists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and so forth. There seems to be a stiffling of the media and people in general if that’s what i can call it.
Further more, she’s a teacher right? Couldnt she have done more research before going there? I think there’s a high possibility that she did. And to name a teddy bear Muhammad? What the hell was she thinking? And like Dave says, she is definately lucky to leave that country in one piece. She should be thanking God, her lucky stars or whatever she subscribes to for that!

Posted by Diana Ngila | Report as abusive

This was an unfortunate mistake. The reaction of the Sudanese is obviously over the top. There have been Muslims from various places in the world condemning the reaction.

Many on this blog have responded with the same type of intolerance as the people calling for this teacher’s death. To characterize all Muslim people the same way is equivalent to grouping all Christians with the isolationist groups in the hills of Idaho that call themselves Christian. Each person should be judged on their own actions, not on the actions of others that claim the same religion.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

I agree with Laon and Rita. Addison is only showing that he is the naive one, or that he is incredibly stupid, unable to fully grasp the political situation, or is deliberately being provocative and insensitive. Whatever the case maybe, it is not fit to be called journalism.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Since Davis posted twice, I decided I better too to counteract his/her incendiary invective. The issue is obviously not “SHARIA LAW” (emphasis original). You seem to be unaware of what the situation is, the students, NOT, the teacher, named the teddy bear. Are you aware of that? The teacher is a scapegoat. The name, Mohammad/Muhammad, is a common one (kind of like Jesus in Latin countries). It was a rush to judgment, one contradicted by the students, that the teddy bear was named after the prophet. I think you are the one with you head in the crackerjack box, making rash accusations against the teacher without paying attention to the facts.
This was a convenient opportunity for the government (note that much of the virulent protest was incited by the Sudanese government) to try and deflect international attention from their genocide in Darfur. And you were dupe enough to join them in that. Maybe the label fascist into not completely accurate, but I think the situation in Darfur is worthy of comparison, don’t you? Do you really want to defend a government that, if not actively involved, is complicit involved in massacring citizens? You call the lady a fool. Come on now, you who spout Sharia law, what law did she break? Aren’t you the fool for condemning her when she didn’t break any law. Remember now, you’re following the “intolerant,” “extreme,” “totalitarian” government in ASSUMING the teddy bear was named after the prophet and in blaming the teacher for what the class decided.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I think she was treated terribly.


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