Sudan’s president on Monday pardoned a British schoolteacher, Gillian Gibbons, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for allowing her students name a teddy bear “Mohammed.” Angry crowds had protested in the streets, saying that Gibbons should have received the maximum sentence for insulting Islam—six months in jail and 40 lashes. (CNN.com)
What the commentators said
The release of one woman won’t end “the Sudanese government’s ingrained utter disregard for fundamental rights,” said Hashim Ahmed in the London Times. The British government should “be applauded” for insisting on Gibbons’ release, but it must maintain the pressure on the Khartoum regime. “The cry for justice will be stilled only when the gross abuses of human rights are ended once and for all in Darfur and Sudan.”
This is the kind of story that makes Westerners shake their heads in disbelief, said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). A government that “is responsible for the genocide in Darfur” tries to “punish the crime of naming a teddy bear” because it insults the Prophet Mohammed (never mind that the kid who suggested the name was also named Mohammed). As Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain put it, “How does this help the cause of Islam?”
“East is East and West is West and in both we take offense at nothing,” said Mark Steyn in National Review Online. Only, in the West we get nonsense like a lawsuit claiming it insults women when Santas say, “Ho, ho, ho.” In Khartoum, even 40 lashes wouldn’t have satisfied the mobs—they shouted that Gibbons should be killed. “The ability to give and take offense is what separates free societies from Sudan.”
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