(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

No Picnic for Teddy Teacher

I try hard, on these pages, to steer clear of POLITICS and ISSUES and, heaven forbid, RELIGION. This is not a soap-box and my opinions on the de rigeur topics of the day are hardly going to be earth-shattering when there are a gazillion bloggers out there bollocking on relentlessly.

But the teddy-bear woman in Sudan? Are you kidding me?

Note (Dec 3) – OK, she’s been pardoned, so I take back the bit about the bombing. That was all talk anyway. I’d naturally be appalled if we bombed anything (apart from maybe Sharon Osborne’s house…)

The British media are usually guilty of much shameful flame-fanning when complex Sharia Law issues arise – especially in countries that are beyond our Western moral jurisdiction. But this? This? I think, as a nation, we are showing remarkable restraint. Because this just makes my blood boil, is what it does. It’s insanity.

As I write, Gillian Gibbons has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred and sentenced to 15 days imprisonment. She can count herself lucky she avoided the 40 lashes, say the hard-line Sudanese clerics. This is a small mercy (I’ve had a morbid fear of lashes ever since my woodwork teacher brandished a ruler at me for failing to knock together a satisfactory spice-rack) but few people will ever suffer the indignity of being banged up in a shit-stinking, disease-ridden cell with dozens of other poor wretches, for simply having the temerity to teach children about animals.

Normally I’m a completely pacifist wuss. Confrontation makes me cry. In the pub or on the football pitch I am the one trying to get in between potential combatants murmuring “Leave it – he’s not worth it” in a quivering voice. But if they lay a finger on that poor woman, or keep her banged up a moment longer, I’d have half a mind to say “D’you know what? Fuck you. Let’s just bomb the shit out of you – see how you like them apples.”

Wars have been started over less. Sadly, this particular diplomatic crisis is being handled on our side by David Miliband, and he’s more likely to give the Sudanese ambassador a big hug and reassuring pat on the buttocks than push any big red buttons.

Of course, the hardliners here are sucking their teeth and shaking their heads and talking solemnly of “blasphemy” and “cultural naivety” - of how the great prophet has been wronged by this cruel and stupid woman.

Well, I’m sorry, but it’s a fucking teddy-bear. And a nice teddy-bear to boot. One the kids all love. Not an American teddy-bear. Or a gay teddy-bear. Or a horrid, slutty girl teddy-bear. So get over it. If you are infuriated by the lazy hacks at the Sun calling you “Mad Mullahs”, you are doing little to crush the stereotype.

teddy

Teddy-Bear “Brian” (name changed to protect the author from getting stabbed)

The absolute clincher is that - get this - Muhammad is a common name! Millions of kids throughout the world are named after the guy! And apparently – that’s OK. It’s more than OK – it’s encouraged! Now I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather have a lovely, cuddly teddy named after me than a snotty, pukey little kid who regularly soils himself, and will no doubt grow into a confused teenager with impure thoughts and simmering guilt and rage towards women.

And I don’t get it – what if a boy called Muhammad draws a picture of himself? Is that acceptable?

I can only imagine the number of wretched infants being hung up by their thumbs while their fathers wring their hands at the Mosque: “I don’t know what’s wrong with little Mo – he draws with an infidel’s pen. He portrays our great prophet as a stick man with a massive head and frizzy purple hair.”

To me this illustrates perfectly the fine line between reverence and disrespect that epitomises the hypocrisy of fundamentalist Islam. I mean - what kind of message does it send to kids?

sudan

You should see what they do to teachers who talk about evolution…

Son: I love my Teddy Muhammad, father.

Dad: How dare you?? This is brazen idolatry! Feel my wrath, child!

Son (tearful): But, father… I’M called Muhammad…

Dad: That’s different – you were named in celebration of our glorious prophet. And don’t answer back while I’m trying to beat you.

Son: I don’t understand – I love Muhammad and I love my teddy. I thought…

Dad: Silence! Don’t make me bring out the tyre iron...

Anyway – how on earth did the authorities find out about Ms Gibbons’ heinous crime? Was there a snitch in the staffroom? A milk monitor mole?

All I am picturing is an idiot police force setting up a perimeter in the cloakroom and spraying tear gas at the dinner ladies so they could get at this dangerous preacher of hate. “Right lads – let’s bring the bitch in – and while you’re at it, check to make sure none of the little blighters are calling any of their pet gerbils “Allah” or worshipping false Western idols. Anyone with a Gameboy goes down – no questions asked."

Ironically, the Christian alternative to all this nonsense would probably have the opposite effect on the perpetrator. If little Timmy called his pet bunny Jesus, he’d be praised to the rafters at church. The vicar would ruffle his hair and thank him for spreading the Word while all the elderly parishioners coo over the little tyke’s piety. Wouldn’t be all sunshine and light though - his mates would no doubt kick his head in and steal his lunch money.

But Teddygate is indicative of the kind of zealotry that makes most Muslims tear their hair out. And my heart bleeds for this tolerant majority – the ones who talk of compassion and humanity and love:

“Oh God - Tell me they haven’t stitched up another Westerner under some obscure blasphemy transgression. What is it this time? Not more cartoons? A woman flashing her ankles at the market? What? A TEDDY-BEAR CALLED MUHAMMAD?? A kindly primary school teacher who wouldn’t hurt a fly let alone insult Islam? Don’t tell me – the idiots from down the road have started burning Union Jacks and calling for the death penalty? How did I guess. We’re all doomed – they’ll bomb us for sure. I’ll never get to see Buckingham Palace now…”

I thought the Denmark cartoon thing was absurd. It prompted me to write the now fabled Gay Cartoon piece. But, hell, that was satire! Is there no end to our evil? If they’re willing to lash us for teddies, I’m surprised the Danes haven’t been invaded. And… But enough.

Before the self-righteous bleating begins – I fully admit I don’t know what I’m talking about. Religion to this degree is the single most baffling thing I can think of. Bizarrely, I sometimes find myself envying the cloistering certainty of the some of these believers and their unwavering passion for what, to me, are intangible and nonsensical rules of life. No doubt it’ll be a colder, scarier place for me on my deathbed, but I’ll take the moral high ground for now.

December 2007

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