Dear Sudanese Government and Others whom it may concern,
My name is Sigg3 and I respond to your imprisonment of schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons after her class chose the name Muhammad for their mascot teddy bear. The news story caught my ear when I was trying to have a nap after a particularly good meal of spaghetti and cheese this afternoon, when my digestion process is in its most vulnerable stage. I am a student of Philosophy, I work at an international research institute, and I also write this blog.
As you are well aware mrs. Gibbons had no intention to insult the Prophet of Islam. I can appreciate your concern for sensitive public issues, but to flog a human being over a non-sympathetic interpretation of a harmless act is taking it a bit too far. Especially since the whole case is hypocritical.
Let us consider a factor you should have taken into account before you acted to save your face: Muhammad is a name. You must agree that the name Muhammad in no way resemble the concept of God or Allah, both by nature and logical extension. The Prophet is not Allah, and The Prophet was a physical man and a historical figure. If this is agreed upon, we may continue.
You never did ask yourselves what the other names were from which the students were supposed to vote, did you? What were the alternatives here? For the sake of the argument, let us assume that these were the alternatives mrs. Gibbons proposed to the children:
Following the reasoning you have portrayed in this case, you will have to agree that since ‘Muhammad’ necessarily picks out ‘Muhammad the Prophet’ from all the millions of people, animals and inanimate objects the name in casu may designate; ‘Ali’ must necessarily pick out (for example) the Famous Boxer, ‘Teddy’ the late American President Roosevelt, ‘George’ the Seinfeld character Costanza, and ‘Jesus’ the purported son of God in Christian faith.
Let us further assume that the children did pick Teddy as the name of their fluffy mascot. Would you still argue that mrs. Gibbons and the children necessarily, from all the possible Teddy’s in the world, meant ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ and that their fluffy mascot was an impersonation or rendering of the late American President and in so doing promoted North-American imperialism in your home country? Or would you maybe, just maybe, consider it a bit far-fetched?
That maybe the designations listed above were a bit arbitrary? Just a little?
In addition, you must agree that the name Muhammad is even more widespread than the name Jesus is in the catholic tradition. I live in the city of Oslo where most of my neighbours are Muslims. And in the street where I live I have got both Muhammad the Hairdresser and Muhammad the Butcher. If I were to put these two and Muhammad the Prophet in front of you, and gave you the proper introduction to each, would you really believe that they were one and the same being? Don’t you think that there are Muhammads out there who really deserves to go to prison, or does a first name save them from the law?
And do you believe that mrs. Gibbons was named after the plural of Gibbon apes?
I had the honour to visit your country in 2005, and I realize that you have significantly larger issues to tackle, such as the Darfur crisis and a probable conflict over water from the Niles. I wish you great luck with both of these, and any of the other important matters you will have to handle. But if you as a governing body of Sudan keep up this kind of irrational and ignorant behaviour, that I personally believe a Great man such as the Prophet would have sneered at, then maybe you are unfit for the task and Sudan is up for a downer. And if you cannot distinguish between Muhammad the Prophet versus any other possible extension of the name, then maybe you are unqualified to interpret texts of Law, be they judicial, moral or religious.
With my Best Wishes & Sincerely, Sigg3
P.S. If you think I’m a little harsh you should stop making frustrating headlines.
EDIT December 3rd:
First she was sentenced to a milder punishment, 15 days jail time, because witnesses testified that it was the children who in fact suggested the name. It would be interesting to hear how the parents who demanded mrs. Gibbons’ arrest would enjoy the prospect of their offspring being flogged.
Then tensions rose and residents of Khartoum demanded her execution.
After political pressure from the UK Mrs. Gibbons was freed from jail and handed over to the British authorities. She was quoted as saying sorry for any distress and that her parents had not, in fact, named her after the plural of gibbon ape despite one blogger’s speculation.