Friday, November 30, 2007

UK Teacher Not Guilty for Naming Teddy Bear "Muhammad"

Say: "Whether ye hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all: He knows what is in the heavens, and what is on earth. And Allah has power over all things." (Aal `Imran 3:29)

Guilt is a feeling of culpability for offenses. Ikhlas or purity of intention applies all over Islam, like the Golden Rule. I am referring to the case of the British teacher in Sudan who was arrested (to be prepared for forty lashings) in Sudan for naming a teddy bear 'Muhammad'. But which 'Muhammad' are we talking about? Not the Apostle, but a little boy in her class. The children, not the teacher, voted for the name. The dominant Western media is very accurate and 'objective' in reporting the errors of other parts of the world, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so we know it is true. Where do we move from here? Express outrage, yes. That's a collective obligation on the rest of the world. My purpose is to look at it from a slightly different perspective, while making clear my objection to it.
  1. There has been a tendency among some Muslims to completely whitewash the sensibilities of Muslim peoples living in Asia and Africa, something I myself have been guilty of in the past. The Muslim Council of Britain is spot on when it decribes the judgment "completely injustified", but there is no attempt made to change the system that produces those judgments. Words like "ridiculous" and "unfair" flow readily from the lips of Muslims who are educated enough to know better, but they ignore the dignity of the people they are talking about. On scaling the Everest, Hillary said: "I came, I saw, I conquered." With more privileged Muslims in capitalist democracies, it's like: "I came, I saw, I spoke aloud so the crowd could hear [that would make one good Muslim] and I went home feeling smug." Shame on us.
  2. Is this the first time this year that a teacher has been subjected to forty lashings? If a strong case can be made against a smokeless barrel [reminds me of the WMD], I'm sure there were plenty of rulings against Sudanese teachers before this. So let's not turn this into a debate about a "British woman". It is a ruling against an innocent lady, and it is incumbent upon the Muslim-majority state to protect her just like it must protect its own citizens.
  3. The non-humanitarian, war-mongering, pro-Globalisation Western Right's response on various newspaper columns is symptomatic of a disturbing anti-Muslim war that is being waged for imperial hubris and geopolitics. They care as much about justice and life as a B52 cares about a little boy in Afghanistan before blowing him to shreds. It doesn't make sense when people who articulated the war against Iraq and demonise Muslim immigrants in Europe with fascistic fervour get pro-justice all of a sudden.
  4. And the question of ikhlas or the purity of intention. Ask yourself. Most of all, this is something the Sudanese authorities should be asking themselves for imprisoning an innocent lady. Will their ego let go?


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