OPINION

Gillian Gibbons Released, Teddy Mo' No More

December 04, 2007
Deepti Lamba

The first time my daughter laid eyes on a white teddy bear in a mall she let out a delighted squeal. She hugged the stuffed animal and walked around with it as if it was her baby. She slept with her teddy, she ate alongside her teddy and the only place she wasn't allowed to take her teddy was to the bathroom.

Like Calvin and Hobbes, Parita and her teddy were inseparable. She even tried to feed her teddy milk and khaana. Of course, one fine day, Teddy was given up for Barney and then Barney was given up for a doll. Yet she is still quite possessive about her teddy. He has to be within her playing periphery.

I was about five when a mean laborer stuffed my stuffed dog up the kitchen's chimney, or that was what my mother told me. I still remember the dog's long floppy ears, brown coat and red nose. I was upset for weeks together and even now when I visit home, the chimney is a reminder of the tears I shed as a tot.

The entire ruckus over Teddy Mo' was much ado about nothing. The kids meant no harm, the teacher meant no offense.

The class voted the name Muhammad for their Teddy not in jest but probably in pure innocent love. It is a sign of veneration for the Prophet, the only special person who their special toy could be named after was their Prophet.

Adults would obviously go down the slippery slope - today it's a stuffed toy, tomorrow an animal could be named after the Prophet etc. But children don't think that way and this lady for all her ignorance didn't think that way. She probably knew that kids love their toys with all their little hearts.

Mrs. Gibbons is back in Britain and has only good words to put in for Sudan and its people.

"The Sudanese people I found to be extremely kind and generous and until this happened I only had a good experience."

"I wouldn't like to put anyone off going to Sudan.

"I would like to thank Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi and I would like to thank all the people who have worked so hard to secure my release and make my time more bearable."
She even said she was treated well in prison and did not mean to offend any one by her actions.
The teacher's local MP, Louise Ellman, has welcomed Mrs Gibbons' return but said the jail sentence "should never have happened".

"The original incident was something very innocent and then what should have been seen as a minor error - and certainly a very innocent one - suddenly became blown up into something extremely important and the whole thing has been very, very worrying and quite horrendous."

For once let's see the issue from the children's point of view, and set aside the adult political commentary.

 

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

#1
temporal
URL
December 4, 2007
06:12 PM

dee:

agree! For once lets see the issue from the children's point of view, and set aside the adult political commentary.

#2
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 5, 2007
12:08 AM

t, a teddy for you;)

#3
Jawahara
URL
December 5, 2007
04:40 AM

I hate to be the non-child's POV here, but what the heck! :-)

I think this episode neatly side-stepped the very fundamental problem with blasphemy in general, focusing instead on a teddy bear and one British woman.

If she was not British...if she was Sudanese or even from some country with no clout she would have probably gotten the full sentence. As it is she barely served a week in prison.

I have two somewhat points: one, I have an objection to a westerner being treated with different criteria for a crime that others would have received much harsher punishment for. I don't agree that naming a toy Mohammad should be a punishable offence in the first place, of course.
Two, Islamic blasphemy laws are dangerous and retrogressive. And this is an issue that the Muslim world needs to confront in some way. Whether it's a book in India or a teddy bear in Sudan, blasphemy stands squarely in the path of the freedom of expression. And that is the real danger.

P.S. I had an ugly yellow, teddy bear I had won in some lucky dip in Canada, when I was 4. I love him ;-). Maybe I can call him Mohammad now...hmmm

#4
Irfan
December 5, 2007
06:09 AM

Jawahara #3 "f she was not British...if she was Sudanese or even from some country with no clout she would have probably gotten the full sentence."

No had she not been from England she wouldn't have sentenced and probably there would have been no news at all, this is nothing to do it with Islam, it is because of British insistence to send Nato or UN army to sudan; Sudan needed some reason to turn Muslim tide against English. But it failed since Muslim MPs helped secure her release.

"Two, Islamic blasphemy laws are dangerous and retrogressive"
Islamic laws are not at all retrogressive for its 1.2 to 1.5 Billion followers so you please keep away from it and respect it where ever it is applied, just like everybody respects Anti-Semetic laws in European Countries. You can happily name your Teddy bear for your satisfaction(well it is sadistic, getting satisfaction when others burn) nobody is going after you unless you are Rushdie or Tasleema.

#5
desigirl
URL
December 5, 2007
06:32 AM

J:
A girl after my own heart!
Now you know what's going to follow - pics of the lady with her family during Christmas. I am going to be assaulted by 'Home for Christmas' slogans.

I wish the poor lady hadn't had to go through this fright but my point remains that whilst abroad, one must have respect have that country's peculiarities. (As I am constantly reminded here!)

#6
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 5, 2007
06:34 AM

Irfan, a couple of years back there had been riots in Bangalore over a story where the village idiot was named Muhammad. People whatever be their faiths need to grow thicker hides.

And btw Jawahara is a published author, reason enough for people with agendas to get mad over something so innocuous.

#7
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 5, 2007
06:39 AM

DG, the way I see I'd probably not go live in a country where my rights are curtailed by law but at the same time we cannot abide by certain blatant 'peculiarities' in countries where they tout being land of the free and all;)

#8
temporal
URL
December 5, 2007
07:30 AM

jay:

I think this episode neatly side-stepped the very fundamental problem with blasphemy in general, focusing instead on a teddy bear and one British woman.

this is one of the defintions of blasphemy in the dictionary: An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

do we agree? if not quote your dictionary for blasphemy and we can debate:)

#9
Jawahara
URL
December 5, 2007
07:56 AM

Irfan, as an (okay, an ex) Muslim I believe I know retrogressive when I see it and hear about it...and even live somewhere on the fringes of it. Even if I did not have a Muslim past I have the right to call it as I see it. And just because 1.2 billion people believe in something doesn't make it right...or right for others at any rate. And, why exactly should I keep my opinions to myself? Even if I did name my bear Mohammad, why would others burn? Hmmm?

DG, I pity you. Glad I don't live on your side of the channel. :-)

Dee, where can we sign up to vote for people to grown thicker skins? :-) And yes, there are a few countries in the world where I am not lining up to go, much as I love traveling.

T, bhai, you should know that I consider nothing "inviolable" or "sacrosanct," except maybe human rights and the right for independent thinking. Even for those I would never advocate violence as a solution.

My debate is not on what blasphemy is (however you define it) but the fact that I don't think there is anything wrong with blasphemy and there should be no laws against it. Simple! :-)

#10
temporal
URL
December 5, 2007
08:04 AM

jay:

in the second last para "except"!

the moment we start making allowances - considerations - that is where restraint creeps in

as for violence - arey bhai when did i ever brought in violence for blasphemy or gross indiscretion against what others revere?

i am for self restraint and understanding

(just like am sure in germany you would restrain yourself and chose not to write a fictional (even) expose of holocaust myths even though deep in your guts you hold nothing "inviolable" or "sacrosanct")

#11
desigirl
URL
December 5, 2007
08:12 AM

Dee / J:
Land of the free? Pshaw! Yday, while on the train to uni, I sat two seats from this white woman, in a not very crowded train. Two - three seconds after I sat down, she got up and went to the far corner of the carriage and planted herself there! I have been spat at, told to 'Go Home', been hassled by yobs, been ignored in shops and lets not even get started on the schoolgate mafia - it grates my nerves to see statements like 'Oh the brits are so tolerant towards immigrants'. Not really. I pay more tax than those idiots who mooch around the station, doing nothing and still get hassled for being brown.

#12
Irfan
December 5, 2007
08:23 AM

Jawahara # 9 :
Yes I meant you have right to believe Islamic laws are retrogressive, but for majority of Muslims it is a progressive one,I hope you respect that.You can name your Teddy Bear or even Dogs (as many right-wingers Muslim-haters did in Britain to mock Muslims after this episode) if it gives satisfaction to you, if you think it is way to show your freedom of expression, if it is a way you think you are fighting the religious fundamentalists. But there are lot of Muslims who are offended by it because they respect the Prophet, well but you are not obliged to think about that.

#6 To Deepti Lamba: Well it will certainly help her to get more recognition if she do that. Who knows a election ticket in India, or a top job at AEI, best of luck for her.

#13
Deepti Lamba
URL
December 5, 2007
11:36 AM

DG, Brits tolerant towards immigrants? Since when? Immigrants have never been met with open arms except maybe in Canada;)

#14
desigirl
URL
December 5, 2007
12:47 PM

Dee:
So true, so true!

#15
Jawahara
URL
December 5, 2007
12:50 PM

Ok, there is some divine intervention here. I typed a long response and it's gone missing. Yikes! Here goes (from what I remember).

DG, I too have heard horror stories about racism in the UK, and of course, there are many instances in the US and Canada as well (yes, Dee. My brother works in anti-racism there, and sadly open borders does not mean no racism). The point is that you can't do much to change the minds/actions of racist individuals, unless they actually do something criminal. But imagine a scenario where what they are doing is actually legal and there is no legal recourse.

I remember when my mom started driving a car (in the 80's) in our small town, she was constantly being harrassed (idiot drivers zooming past to disconcert her, others passing comments, etc.) It was annoying...but compare that with a place where she would not have had the right to drive a car. That was just a simple example but you get the point. Yes, there are rapes everywhere, but imagine a place where the victim is held equally culpable.

T, I love yanking your chain and I am sure we will never agree on this issue:-) As far as self-restraint goes, my question is why? Every idea that we now take for granted came about because someone was not self-restrained. And most of these were either considered blasphemous or against the mores of that particular society. This ranges from the earth revolving around the sun, to women's rights, anti-slavery, anti-Sati, etc. Not just that, any new religion was blasphemous to the one(s) that came before. So, why was that blasphemy okay and this one not?

Irfan, well, thanks for your permission I guess. Just because a bunch of scientologists believe in Xenu and big-headed aliens doesn't mean they are right. Just a few centuries ago we believed that the sun circled the earth or that certain races were inferior. Now there are many, many good Muslims in the world but just because 1.5 million people believe in something doesn't hold any water with me. This equivalent to a child's response to a question, being "Just because."

You addressed your last point to Dee but since it was about me I will respond (Dee can too if she wants:-) This goes beyond a child's reasoning to the simply lazy. If you can't come with an actual argument this is the typical tactic.

So...because I question something, dare to challenge something...I must be an attention-seeking media whore looking for some cheap fame and recoginition.

I love this. You know Irfan, some of us actually like to think about things from different angles and don't live in a black and white, good or evil world. The questioning and the thinking are an end in themselves. It's easy (and lazy) to discount us as recognition-seekers but it just shows me that you have no points to make.

Cheers!

#16
irfan
December 5, 2007
01:21 PM

Well I think you did not read my comments completely and jumped to comment again, I said you are welcome to think something retrogressive and there are 1.5 billions who it's progressive. You need not agree with them. But thinking somebody's belief as retarded itself is again the spirit of Freedom, for which you stand tall.
I believe in you , you are certainly not Tasleema type I just was replying to Deeptis comment that you are already well known,( glad to know.)But if something gives publicity what the heck utilize it. go ahead...

#17
Jawahara
URL
December 5, 2007
02:03 PM

Irfan, my point was that just because 1.5 billion people think something doesn't mean that I have to think that belief is right. This has nothing to do with what they believe. Of course, they have the right to believe what they do regardless.

And yes, if there was actually a movement to limit their beliefs I would be against that. I truly believe in the adage: I disagree wholeheartedly in what you believe but I will defend your right to say it.

"But if something gives publicity what the heck utilize it. go ahead..."

Hmmm....okay if that wasn't a totally back-handed slap I don't know what is. What is it with you and publicity? There *are* other motivations to peoples' thoughts and writings you know? Khair...jaane do.

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/6872)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.






Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!