November 29, 2007
Flogging a Dead Teddy Bear
I was hoping this would go away and that I therefore would not have to withdraw my head from the sand and confront the farce that is the Mohammed teddy bear story. Almost no aspect of this saga can be taken seriously in that I actually marvel at how newsreaders can keep a straight face when using the words ‘teddy bear’ and ‘flogging’ in the same breath. That said however, it is indeed gravely serious. I have no doubt the teacher in question will not be subjected to the full barbaric punishment (only because Sudan’s version of Sharia law is so cosmetic and floggings, amputations and stonings rarely, if ever take place) but what is worrying is how far the Sudanese local authorities are willing to go to flex some muscle.
Reactions have been typical, ranging from the ‘what do you expect from Muslim savages’, to the exaggeratedly tolerant ‘we have to respect their culture’ but there are a couple of issues of note which have not been sufficiently covered. Firstly, having had the dubious honour of attending the said institution (the choice of ‘well heeled’ Sudanese and expat children) for some time due to one of my father’s random diplomatic postings, I am aware that there has always existed an uneasy truce between the highly Westernised elite that chose to send their children to the school and local government authorities who resented the very existence of such an elite and their access to the admittedly exceptional education the school offered. Were it not for the ironic fact that high ranking government officials mostly sent their children to the school, the co-existence would have been much more challenging.
There were several instances where expat teachers were be vaporised due to public displays of drunkenness. Parents who lapsed in their fee payments sometimes resorted to the local authorities to plead their case against the exorbitant unregulated fee structure and sometimes, managed to keep their children at the school by bullying the school administration which comprised mainly of British expats eager not to incur the wrath of the temperamental government. This background is important when judging the actions of the government as totally randomly barbaric.
In addition, the existing government in Sudan has always been prickly, obstreperous and wont to childish displays of inferiority complexes. This is partly rooted in deep insecurity and partly a hangover of the cynical anti-Western propaganda campaign the National Liberation Front employed for years in order to divert attention from its own lack of a political agenda and rally support for the war in the South. They need to be SEEN to be doing something as opposed to actually feeling strongly about the case. The overreaction stems from the government’s lack of touch with the national zeitgeist (the streets of Sudan have hardly been awash with protestors, and those that have showed up have strong affiliations with the government) as well as the miscalculation of how their display of standing up to the big guy will be perceived in the West. Instead of coming across all Iran like, principled and not bowing down to the hegemony of the West (which is how the Sudanese government likes to perceive itself) the real perception is of a joke of a regime that really has no perspective. The frustrating thing is that in the absence of a closer examination of the aforementioned issues, Muslims are being portrayed as primitive grunting zealots. Again.
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It does look like a classic, seen-it-a-thousand-times scenario:
1. A "Westerner" does something that may serve as an "incidident".
2. The "Oriental" government or a public figure uses this incident and reacts strongly because it is irked by something else and the incident, although completely unrelated to the "something else", comes at a very opportune moment.
3. The incident is blown out of proportion by the local media.
4. The Western media manages to do the unthinkable - blowing the whole issue out the already humongous proportions accomplished by the local media.
5. Western politicians address the issue, not because they give a s*** but because it works well with some domestic cause or another.
6. The "Oriental" government, facing all this publicity, feels it now cannot back down lest it looses face. Pro-government demonstrations are being taken place.
The issue will end in one of two ways:
7(a) If the "oriental" country is weak: Much time, ink, argumentation and counter-argumentation later ... the issue is ended by a very simple compromise. The "offender" is released and the whole thing soon forgotten.
7(b) If the "oriental" country is strong: The "offender" is prosecuted, sentenced, and the sentence carried out. Months or years later s/he is quietly expelled from the country.
What I find interesting in this story is that almost immediately, the children (i.e. their parents) made public statements how it was their idea to name the teddy Muhammad. That wouldn't've happened in, say, Iran or KSA.
What ARE acceptable names for teddy-bears?
Posted by: MSK at November 29, 2007 07:34 AM
But seriously, this coming so hot on the heels of the Qatif case is unfortunate, PR machine going into meltdown bigtime.
Posted by: Bint at November 29, 2007 07:39 AM
You sometimes wonder whether Ayaan Hirsi ex-Ali's & Christopher Hitchen's litterary agents do not travel around Sudan and Saudi Arabia handing out thick envelopes to prompt exactly that kind of insane behavior from some half-witted qadi...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 29, 2007 07:46 AM
But isn't Paddington an English (i.e. "imperialist") name???
Sadly ... they don't have to.
Posted by: MSK at November 29, 2007 07:52 AM
Acceptable names for teddy bears? Islam-appropriate teddy bears?
Posted by: SP at November 29, 2007 08:47 AM
MSK: I fear you're absolutely right on this!
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 29, 2007 08:48 AM
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 29, 2007 08:53 AM
Thanks for the link SP. It made a point that I have written elsewhere.
Some Muslims "veneration" for the Prophet Mohammed is way over the top. They almost worship him in the manner that Christians worship Jesus. Mohammed is not God, but from the way some Muslims act about him, you'd be hard pressed to know it.
I had asked before what would have happened if a bear was named Issa or Musa, would the idiots have had an issue then? Seeing that the "Muslim" bear in the link is named "Adam", the first Prophet, then it seems, once against Mohammed is being held to a higher standard than other Prophets.
Either it is blasphemy for all Prophets, or for non..
The way they treat Mohammed borders on shirk, not to mention it makes them look like eejits.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at November 29, 2007 09:01 AM
The way they treat Mohammed borders on shirk, not to mention it makes them look like eejits
And negates the whole premise that Mohammed (pbuh) was 'the seal of the prophets' as opposed to the only one. Islam's veneration of all Abrahamic prophets is one of the moral highgrounds of the religion.
Posted by: Meph at November 29, 2007 09:04 AM
"And negates the whole premise that Mohammed (pbuh) was 'the seal of the prophets' . . . "
First bears, now seals? What is this, Blasphemy Central? What next -- Winnie the Pbuh?
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 29, 2007 10:31 AM
I managed to write a whole post without succumbing to the urge of punnery ( ok apart from the title), be strong man!
Posted by: Meph at November 29, 2007 10:53 AM
Here's a question - if the teddy bear was originally named after Teddy Roosevelt, doesn't that make it an anthropomorphized toy rather than a lowly animal, and is it still insulting to give it a prophet's name?
Posted by: SP at November 29, 2007 12:31 PM
matthew hogan: "So, if you're calling the author of 'A la recherche du temps perdu' a looney, I shall have to ask you to step outside!" - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnq96W9jtuw ...
Excellent, one of the best groups on Facebook is "after watching monty python and the holy grail i repeat the lines for weeks"...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 29, 2007 12:31 PM
This doesn't help either
Posted by: Meph at November 29, 2007 12:34 PM
What is a picture of a Gulf niqab wearing woman doing in an article about Sudan?
Oh well, it IS the Daily Mail, the writer seems even not to have read the Wikipedia entry on Sudan.
Posted by: Bint at November 29, 2007 12:40 PM
This is the most informative commentary I read on this sorry affair. Thanks!
Posted by: sanaa at November 29, 2007 01:37 PM
Firstly, there is no prohibition in Islam against using the name Mohammed. It's just the Sharia interpretation of the Quran, that says the name is sacred (except for mass murderers etc)... a bad religion made worse by so called Muslim scholars (isn't that an oxymoron?)
In fact in the UK Islam used a teddy bear named Adam (another of the prophets) ... you may be interested to know that in the Quran Mohammed is only the latest of the prophets. He is not preeminent (at least in the Quran).
In fact some Muslims consider the religion to be in danger of becoming polytheist, because of the modern cult of Mohammed, where the hadiths overrule the Quran ... of course they keep this to themselves LOL
With the news that the teacher has been jailed for 15 days in Sudan they prove what a detestable creed they are. We in the West are under grave threat (it wasn't so long ago that some Sharia courts were proposed in Canada for gods sake!) and it will be tried again ... probably in France or the UK.
Luckily the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in 2003 and 2004, that "that Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy" (13/02/2003), because the Sharia rules on inheritance, women's rights and religious freedom, violate human rights as established in the European Convention on Human Rights, but that won't stop an attempt to introduce it.
Personally I am happy when this evil religion exposes itself for what it is, it just removes a few more blinkers.
Posted by: NoPCThoughts at November 29, 2007 01:55 PM
It isn't punning per se; it is my complete inability to think of this affair -- despite the real tragedy to the poor woman -- without the sense of humor kicking in on steroids.
Posted by: matthew hogan at November 29, 2007 02:59 PM
"Winnie the Pbuh?"
MH, you should be flogged for that.
But thanks for the monty python link.
Posted by: Ali K at November 29, 2007 04:06 PM
The caption of the picture tells how Shari'a requires women to cover up. I guess they wanted to find some of the more radical takes on the concept, ie Khalijia women. I guess it couldhave been worse, they could have put one of those Afghani women in a blue burqa on there.
Considering it is the Daily Mail, I wonder if they made a Sudanese lady the "Page Three" girl of the day? I am sure that might warrant a fatwa or two.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at November 29, 2007 04:09 PM
Abu Sinan et al-
I doubt that picture was taken in the Gulf. Looks to me like it was taken in Britain, where this kind of gear is catching on with some Asian populations.
PS. The Daily Mail doesn't have a 'page three' feature.
Posted by: Ali K at November 29, 2007 04:18 PM
I gotta tell you. The next time some guy tries to sell me on a joint business venture in Islamic Africa, I’m gonna do a little cultural research first!
“The first of it’s kind in Kartoum!” he said. “Everyone will love it!”
Thanks for nothing Alif!!!!
Posted by: BOB at November 29, 2007 04:52 PM
Meph: thanks for the Daily Mail link. It made me review my stance on flogging - while I'm still against it for naming a teddybear Mohamed, I am adamantly for in the case of those vile perverts mascarading as Tory MPs while wearing coulourful wellington boots: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=497377&in_page_id=1770 .
By the way, it would appear that the British teacher in Khartoum has been convicted but spared flogging: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/world/africa/30sudan.html?hp .
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at November 29, 2007 05:14 PM
First, the Sudanese seem to have finessed the issue. Convicted but sentenced to 15 days. Most likely that'll be commuted and she'll be deported. Hardly worth protesting about, really.
Second, as so often happens in these bone-headed "disputes," these Islamo-mongoloids can't even figure out what they're supposed to be in high religious dudgeon about. I don't believe there is any Islamic prohibition on naming things "Mohammed." I mean, there are streets called "Mohammed" and people walk on them.
But the very existence of a teddy bear, whatever its name, now that's religiously offensive! Sculpture is a delicate issue in Islam.
Soft, cuddly, anthropomorphized sculpture for impressionable children ought to be right out.
Parenthetically, I have to say that "Adam," the shahada-reciting bear, struck even me as being in the most dubious of religious taste.
Posted by: Anonymous at November 29, 2007 09:10 PM
It looks like in Saira Khan (she of the Daily Mail article) we have ourselves a new AHA-nik:
On a related note, I'll be in the land of the flogging bears over the weekend ...
Posted by: MSK at November 30, 2007 02:52 AM
Don't get me started on Saira Khan, seriously.
Posted by: Meph at November 30, 2007 04:10 AM
By all means, PLEASE do.
Posted by: MSK at November 30, 2007 04:59 AM
I lived in England in the mid to late 1990s, but I cannot say I ever read Daily Mail. I read The Guardian, Independent and Times on a daily basis, but never one picked up the Daily Mail.
I always associated the DM with trash journalism, so I thought they'd have a page three girl. Maybe someone should suggest it to them?
Posted by: Abu Sinan at November 30, 2007 08:22 AM
It's not really trash journalism (not e.g on a par with The Sun). It is pitched more to the Middle England middle class in a hysterical 'house prices are rising/immigrants are stealing your jobs/Muslims want to blow you up/sub-prime debt is rising' shriek.
Posted by: Meph at November 30, 2007 08:35 AM
Posted by: eerie at November 30, 2007 10:45 AM
I wonder how much of that is agitation to prove that the government had in fact been lenient and gone against popular demands.
Still doesn't look great, I despair sometimes.
Posted by: Meph at November 30, 2007 11:04 AM
And another thing, do I come across all masculine? Every single person who has cited this post has referred to me as a he.
Posted by: Meph at November 30, 2007 11:10 AM
Meph - it's a standard assumption in the blogosphere, happens to me all the time. Particularly on political issues. Go figure.
Posted by: SP at November 30, 2007 11:20 AM
Yeah - I always assume that posters on blogs/chatboards are male, unless I have a very good reason to believe otherwise. I only realise that I had automatically assumed this until I find out they are female. Seems others do the same. Maybe there's material for a PhD dissertation here? Or maybe not...
Posted by: SideShowMurphy at November 30, 2007 11:26 AM
Everyone thinks I'm a man too. Perhaps we're not using enough smilies.
Posted by: eerie at November 30, 2007 11:48 AM
Meph, SP, eerie,
I never thought you're male. Usually it's no problem recognizing if a writer is male or female.
Can't explain what it is.
But yes, the general observations that readers think "if it's politics, it must be male" probably rings true.
Posted by: MSK at November 30, 2007 04:35 PM
Meph, I did the same mistake. But really, when thinking about Mephistopheles... I think about a male devil.
Posted by: Frandroid Atreides at November 30, 2007 07:16 PM
Unless you think of Mephistophelia ...
Posted by: MSK at December 1, 2007 08:01 AM
Many of the comments ignore the undoubted fact that Christianity has a past every bit as vicious and blinded as Islam is perceived to have -- lots of bloodshed, zero tolerance, etc. It's just that the Christians have a 600-year start in sorting themselves out. I'm confident you all know that the desert deity worshipped by the three Abrahamic religions is first and foremost a war god. The core of the present-day problem, as I see it, is that genuine Muslims are frightened to stand up and defend their religion against the militants; understandable, I suppose, as the bad guys are enthusiastic about killing fellow Muslims they disagree with. More active protests from real Muslims would go a long way to addressing the problem.
BTW talking about puns, was Bob's remark about "vile perverts mascarading as Tory MPs while wearing colourful wellington boots" a pun? If so, it's brilliant:
Posted by: Allan at December 3, 2007 02:08 AM
Sudan pardons teddy bear teacher. Just in case anyone missed it.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at December 3, 2007 09:15 AM
Hard to miss really but very predictable. Interesting how there have been no riotous scenes following the pardon (I would imagine that the commuting of the sentence is more offensive than a lenient one?). One reporter on the BBC went distinctly against the conventional wisdom by stating that the demonstrations 'had an air of theatre' about them.
Posted by: Meph at December 3, 2007 10:01 AM
Posted by: Ali K at December 3, 2007 01:37 PM
'real muslims protesting' the extremists should go about that how, precisely, Allan? waving placards and shouting? doesn't seem effective, and very few have been in the West where that works for democratic change long enough for that to sink in as a social mode of protest.
complaining in letters to the papers and writing articles? tons of that exists, but it's less vibrant press (and doesn't fit the 'conventional wisdom' on muslims)... and so doesn't get much airtime - see
for pages of condemnation, intellectual, scholarly, academic, and Islamic legal arguments against terrorism and extremism - and then ask why the talking heads on CNN/FOX say "Why don't muslims ever speak out against this?"...
even Saudi-aligned Salafi muslims, a group I'm not sympathetic with, have long had condemnations of (suicide-bombing) terrorism and (hatred of non-muslims) extremism, even though their legal restrictions might be seen as amongst the harshest in the world (and irrational) - but that gets them nowhere in the media, as well.
I personally think the Sudanese gov't minister responsible thought he had an easy play-up to make his gov't seem more 'Islamic' despite recent deals with China and America, and overplayed his hand... and it also sounds as though there were personal/political relations at the school with other teachers who resented this teacher, leading to the complaint being made public.
idiotic case, because the child who was named 'Muhammad' in her class himself said he wasn't thinking of the Prophet and just thought it would be nice to name his bear after himself... but then many things to do with government-run education are asinine and ass-backward to begin with. ( www.johntaylorgatto.com )
Posted by: dawud at December 3, 2007 02:33 PM
dawud, I'm not under any illusions about the freedom of protest in the sort of Muslim countries we are talking about. What I had in mind was some way of combatting the rising tide of fear and resentment against Muslims in Western countries. Many thanks for the websites, whence I pinched this quote from Abdulaziz Sachedina: Hadn’t this God, whom they call the Merciful, the Compassionate Allah, given them the gift of the Revelation that regarded killing of one person "as though he had killed all of humankind"? (The Koran, 5:33). Hadn’t the founder of Islam, Muhammad, taught that suicide, in any form and for any reason, was absolutely forbidden?
Western Muslims have here something which totally refutes al Qaeda,the Taliban, the militant muftis/imams, terrorists et al, and proves these are heaping contempt on the Prophet and usurping the role of Allah. I'd like to see our Muslims standing up in public to spell this out. Might put their critics' minds at rest.
Posted by: Allan at December 3, 2007 09:48 PM
as a recent convert...i am not-so-much on Muhammed.
but i dig Rabi'a.
26. They said, "Do you love the presence of majesty?"
She said, "I do."
They said, "Do you hate Satan?"
She said, "Out of love of the compassionate, I have no occasion for hatred toward Satan. I saw the Prophet in a dream. He said, 'Rabi'a, do you love me?' I said, 'O Prophet of God, who is there that doesn't love you? But love of the real has so pervaded me that there is no place in my heart for love or hatred of another.'"
I wish..there was a way to popularize Islam...to make it palatable for the western hoi polloi.
perhaps... like Willow's book...Cairo.
Posted by: jinnilyyah at December 5, 2007 01:23 PM
A form of Islam has been "popularized". Many of the same people who chased the Buddha and the Dali Lamma are now practicing a severly truncated form of Sufi Islam.
They dont pray, they dont fast, they dont attend Friday prayers or anything else associated with Islam, but they sure do get into all of the mystical stuff.
Those upper class/rich types who dont get into Sufism usually head off to a Kabbalah school somewhere.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at December 6, 2007 01:08 PM
Abu Sinan, do you think that sometimes that has less to do with the Sunnah or the Prophet than the way some muslims represent his Sunnah: that image being that it has narrowly to do with beards and beating people into prayer and nothing with compassion and mercy; a lot to do with frowning and self-righteously castigating others without self-reflection - even though the former is hypocrisy and the latter a confirmed Sunnah?
Posted by: dawud at December 6, 2007 06:18 PM
^I meant that self-reflection was a Tradition [Sunnah] of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
I don't care what the yuppies make out of any tradition, in the end, the truth is not sought in people - "Don't look for the truth in people, but rather search for the Truth and you will know its' people" (Imam Ali, radhi Allahu anh - may God be pleased with him) - Tassawuf is a confirmed practice of the Salaf-us-Salih, as Imam Hasan al-Basri and Rabi'a al-Basri are amongst the Tabi'in (pious Followers), you know?
Posted by: dawud at December 6, 2007 06:27 PM
lolz...i pray, i fast...and i suffer for those behaviors, socially at least.
i initially became interested in al Islam from listening to quranic recitation for arabic pronunciation.
but reading ibn arabi and al ghazzali is what converted me.
i wish there was a way for the great islamic theosophists to be appreciated in the west.
John Derbyshire told me once about a friend of his, a coworker and a muslim engineer...who believed conversion to al Islam was inevitable...
like coulter logic i guess (haha)...if xians are completed jews, muslims must be completed xians, by chronology and evolutionary theory of culture if nothing else.
Islam is an elitist religion in the West....sort of...the very rich have the leisure time to explore it and pay teachers...the very bright who can actually read the theosophists...like micheal sells and leopold weiss...lolz....and dawud it is true....and me.....come to it naturally and inevitably.
the other broad class of western converts is the "bullied class"--ppl that believe they are being bullied or suppressed and radical islam represents a sort of revenge/justice theme for them...prison converts is a good example.
but willow's manga is perhaps the only way a whole strata of westerners can be exposed to a different kind of Islam.
One of my shayyks says that al Islam is a process..a work in progress.
I believe that.
Posted by: jinnilyyah at December 7, 2007 08:06 AM
ummm...willow is also a convert...i guess...intellectual conversion?
and..by "work in progress" my shayyk means al Islam acting on the individual muslim, not the whole of al Islam.
I'll try to find the process quote so that i quote him with perfect accuracy.
Posted by: jinnilyyah at December 7, 2007 08:36 AM
I have to admit that the way that many Muslims, convert and "born", approach the Sunnah turns me off as well for the very reasons you mentioned.
They cherry pick from the Sunnah what conforms to their ideas and wishes, and drop the rest. These beard wearing, short pants sporting types would have a heart attack if someone suggested they marry a widow or a divorced woman with children, yet that is all part of the Sunnah.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at December 7, 2007 09:34 AM