I’ve been following the brewing scandal – and conviction - of the British teacher in Sudan who named a teddy bear in class after the Islamic prophet Muhammad. She was sentenced yesterday to 15 days in jail. I guess in some ways she should consider herself lucky, since a 6-month sentence and 40 lashes had also be considered.
Now there’s news today that that hundreds of demonstrators are protesting in the streets over her relatively soft sentence (from the Sudanese point of view). Luckily, the news is tempered by the possibility that most protesters were government employees ordered to demonstrate and that clerics around Khartoum have been quiet on calling for violence against this Brit.
I think in this case, it’s fair to say the woman made an innocent mistake. She’s 54 and teaches 7-year-olds, signs that she probably isn’t on a crusade against Islam. The Sudanese also have a valid point – that she broke the law and must be punished. But it is pretty surprising how harsh the backlash has been. The question is whether this backlash was a singularity or does it fit in the broader scope of bashing the West. At the very least, let this be a lesson to backpackers to areas like these to watch out for cultural issues.