"Should all have been forgiven or does the teacher's sentence send a fair message that foreigners sholud [sic] be more sensitive when it comes to religion?"
Thus concludes Manya Brachear's November 29 post to the Chicago Tribune's "The Seeker" religion news blog. Brachear was opening discussion up in her comments thread to the case of British subject Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old private school teacher in Sudan who faced the potential punishment of 40 lashes. Her crime: allowing her students to name a class teddy bear Muhammad.
The case had sparked international outrage and official protest by the British government. Perhaps in no small part from all the scrutiny, the Islamic clerics who have sentenced Ms. Gibbons handed down a relatively "light" sentence: 15 days in jail followed by deportation back to the United Kingdom.
Perhaps hoping to evince detached balance and objectivity, the Tribune's Brachear, a religion reporter and blogger, entitled her blog post, "Who's Insulting Islam?"
While Brachear did find moderate Muslims who decried charges ever having been filed against Gibbons in the first place, she failed to find anyone to insist that Sudan's government, or at least its judicial system, is held sway by a backwards, intolerant, theocratic imposition of Sharia law. What's more, Brachear found space to hint that the British government may be to blame for nearly causing Gibbons to face the lash:
If a grudge is to blame, foreign policy analysts say it’s one held against the British government for condemning the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region. Millions of people in Darfur have been killed or driven from their homes, largely by the government-backed militia group known as the janjaweed. Muslim clerics in Sudan insist that Westerners are condemning more than the conflict in Darfur. They are attacking Islam and the teacher should be punished for being party to that, according to Islamic law.