December 3rd, 2007
The British schoolteacher working in Sudan, Gillian Gibbons, asked her students to name the classroom mascot, a teddy bear. The seven-year olds responded with “Muhammed.”
The shit hit the fan and Ms. Gibbons was quickly sentenced to jail for insulting Islam. Fortunately, and for hugely political reasons, Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, pardoned her today. The New York Times article mentioned only that she left for Britain in the evening.
But it is the following two paragraphs from the NYT story that left me scratching my head:
Ms. Gibbons, who flew out of Khartoum around 9 p.m. on Monday en route back to England, responded with an apology.
â€œI have been in Sudan for only four months but I have enjoyed myself immensely,â€ she said in a statement. â€œI have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from the Sudanese people. I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone.â€
Did she make this apology while she was still on Sudanese soil, or was she safely in Britain?
If she was in Sudan, she might have remained subject to rearrest and imprisonment, so the apology was understandable boilerplate get-me-the-fuck-outta-here. If she was in fact free, though, it’s another sad example of Stockholm syndrome.
The Sudanese people were not kind and generous. They were vicious, petty, and a blot on humanity.
This weekend in my regular improv workshop, one group was given the challenge — do a scene about the Sudan teddy bear story in the style of “The Honeymooners.” It was fabulous, side-splitting, with the brilliant Paula M. wrapping up the scene with a spot-on ululation followed by “To the Moon!”
The beauty of it is it was improv. There’s no script, no video, no spy-for-Allah in the room. So there will be no riots.
Only I, the reporter, will suffer. I will be denied paradise and its virgins. (But as my friend Dean says, there’s probably a reason those 72 women are virgins).