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Exercise 38. Read, translate and retell the text.

The Blasphemous Teddy Bear

British primary school teacher Gillian Gibbons was arrested in Sudan, accused ofinsultingIslam’s Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohammed.

It probably seemed like the most innocent of ideas to the newly arrived teacher from England, still set­tling into life in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. She asked her class of six- and seven-year-olds to dress up and name a teddy bear, and keep a diary of his outings. And the children chose the name for their bear: Muhammad.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, spent two nights in a Sudanese prison, accused of insulting Is­lam’s Prophet. She faces a public lashing or up to six months in prison if found guilty on charges of blas­phemy. And Unity High School – one of a number of exclusive British schools in the Sudanese capital – has been closed as staff fear reprisals from Islamic extremists. “This was a completely innocent mistake”, said Robert Boulos, the school’s director. “Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam”.

“We tried to reason with the police but we felt they were coming under strong pressure from Islamic courts”, said Boulos. “There were men with big beards asking where she was and saying they wanted to kill her”.

A similar angry crowd had gathered by the time she arrived at the Khartoum police station where she is being held.

This British school is very prestigious. Many of its pupils come from well-to-do Sudanese families. But Sudan is ruled by religious conservatives. Sharia law was introduced in 1991; alcohol is banned and women must wear headscarves. Convicted criminals are routinely flogged or executed.

The bizarre turn of events that led to the teacher’s arrest began in September, soon after she arrived in the country. Her young class studied the behavior and habitat of bears, so she suggested that pupils bring in a teddy bear to serve as a case study. A seven-year-old girl brought in her favorite cuddly toy and the rest of the class was invited to name him. After considering the names Hassan and Abdullah, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Muhammad – the first name of the most popular boy in the class.

“No parents or teachers complained because they knew she had no bad intention”, said Boulos. Until last week. Parents from another class raised concerns with the school. Then Sudan’s feared police came at the weekend.

Bishop Ezikiel Kondo, chairman of the school council, said: “The thing may be very simple, but they just may make it bigger. It’s a kind of blackmail”. Khartoum exploded with anger at accusations of blas­phemy in the past. Several years ago angry demonstrators denounced cartoons of the Prophet that appeared in Danish newspapers.

Most parents arriving at the school gates were supportive of the British teacher. One mother, whose seven-year-old son was in Gibbons’ class, said her family had not been offended by the name. “Our Prophet Muhammad tells us to be forgiving”, she said. “So she should be released. She didn’t mean any of this at all”.


Date: 2016-01-14; view: 1520

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