Many Muslims embarrassed by 'teddy affair'
Dec 4, 2007, 14:49 GMT
Istanbul - The 'teddy affair' not only stunned people in the West, but it has also angered Muslims worldwide. In Arabic chat rooms the controversy over British teacher Gillian Gibbons, who was first sentenced and then pardoned, is the topic of heated discussions.
Muslims who find the outrage over teddy Mohammed futile and exaggerated are in a clear majority.
'The Sudanese are backward, they have exposed us Muslims to ridicule,' one member of the Thinkers' Club forum railed.
'This kind of nonsense makes us a laughing stock,' another Thinkers' Club member added.
There are also Muslims who reproach the teacher for having made a mistake because she didn't consider the religious feelings in her host country. However, hardly anyone sees it as a 'crime' that has to be prosecuted by the judiciary - unlike the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed two years ago.
On the day Sudanese President Omar Beshir pardoned the 54-year-old teacher, two of the most influential Arabic regional newspapers carried commentaries heavily criticizing Sudan's leadership.
The lead writer of Al-Hayat accused the Islamist government in Khartoum of 'ignorance' and claimed it had only used the affair to divert attention from its country's actual problems.
The columnist of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, which belongs to a large Saudi publisher, sees the scandal as an attempt to improve Khartoum's negotiating position in the Darfur conflict.
The 'teddy affair' was 'embarrassing, a shame and a crime against Muslims worldwide,' he wrote. The crime had not been committed by an 'innocent teacher,' but rather by a 'regime, which is abusing the judicial system for its own purposes.'
Even Muslim scholars can't get seriously worked up over a non- Muslim woman who allowed her pupils to give a toy the name of Islam's prophet. They unanimously agree that a Muslim should not pick this 'honourable name' for a teddy bear.
However, they emphasize first that respect should not only be paid to Mohammed - for Muslims 'the seal of the prophets' - but also the names of earlier prophets such as Abraham or Moussa should not be used for toys.
Secondly, they agree that the name 'Mohammed' - unlike the name of God - is not sacred.
'The name 'Mohammed' as such is not holy. It was already known in the pre-Islamic era of ignorance,' a legal report published on IslamOnline by Sheikh Abdul Majid Subh, a scholar at Cairo's influential Islamic Al-Azhar University.
'Moreover, millions of Muslims are named Mohammed, even though some of them don't behave according to the responsibility such a name holds,' the scholar noted.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur