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Give a Ted a bad name . . .

Now that Ms Gillian Gibbons is safely home maybe it is ok to speculate on the real reasons why she was imprisoned. It certainly takes some swallowing that anyone could possibly be upset or offended at a child’s toy being given the name of a human being. We can accept that there is a cultural difference between western countries and African countries when it comes to children’s toys; only in the wealthy western countries are children brought up with cuddly animal toys, and that has only been happening in the last century; but is that enough of a difference to create a situation in which someone can be offended by the eccentricities of a western teacher? How long did it take for the person to be offended? Instantly? This is something we have little or no definite information about but the impression gained, and it is only an impression, is that there was a lapse of time between the event and the complaint being made, which suggests that the information may have been passed around until it finally found someone waiting to be offended. It is difficult to visualise precisely what the plaintiff imagined he/she was going to achieve – publicity, a blow against the interfering West, closure of Unity school? All possible and all very short term gains, except the latter which may be so damaged and discredited it never reopens.

Ms Gibbons appears to be the innocent party on every count – she did not name the bear, and when the choice was first made by the schoolchildren she asked if it was ok to choose that name, so she showed cultural sensitivity right from the beginning. The complaint was made by a private citizen – a parent or a teacher, depending on which newspaper you read – but after that the Sudanese equivalent of the CPS would have taken charge. Wouldn’t it have been possible for someone with his head screwed on the right way round to have thrown the idea out before it even reached the courts? On reaching the court would it not have been possible for the judge to have dismissed the case? Or were there other matters to be considered.

This episode does Sudan no credit, which may be why the government responded to Lord Ahmed and Lady Warsi so well, does the Islamic faith even less good and relationships between westerners and Moslems living in the west least of all. Unfortunately Mo the Ted is just the sort of stuff to make ideal ammunition for the groups of extremists and their sympathisers so it may not be out of order to expect trouble in the near future. From the Moslem nutters who look for any excuse to have a go at the decadent west and from the neo-Nazis who can’t wait to expel them from the planet.

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