British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons returned home on Tuesday, after Sudan’s government pardoned her and cut short a 15-day prison sentence for “insulting Islam.” Her crime was letting her 7-year-old pupils name a teddy bear Mohammed. Gibbons said she went abroad looking for “a bit of an adventure,” but got more than she “bargained for.” (New York Daily News)
What the commentators said
This is no “happy ending,” said USA Today in an editorial. The rabid Islamic fundamentalism behind Gibbons’ arrest still thrives. “If any value is to come from this sorry episode, it is to put moderate Muslims on notice: If you do not stand up, forcefully, and in a sustained way, the religion you claim is peaceful will be defined by intolerant extremists.”
People who already were “hostile to Islam and Muslims” are using this circus to “reinforce their prejudices,” said Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain in Newsweek.com. But most Muslims never thought Gibbons meant any harm. The angry crowds in Khartoum had been told only that a Westerner had “insulted the prophet” Mohammed—so don’t take their reaction as evidence of intolerance.
If anything the world is going too easy on the “depressingly familiar” antics of Islamic radicals, said Joseph Leconte in The Daily Standard. Reporters for the BBC and The New York Times downplayed the ferocity of the bloodthirsty jihadis in the streets of Khartoum who called for Gibbons to be killed. “The saga of Ms. Gibbons has hardly been more stupefying than the reaction of media elites and others desperate to avoid charges of ‘Islamophobia.’”
“For now,” said Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle, “I shall do my part to defuse the raging drama of perceived blasphemy in the world by naming my favorite coffee mug Muhammad.”