Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Teacher's Nightmare

Maybe this affects me more than most people because I used to be a teacher, but I’m very upset with this whole business in Sudan. For those of you who haven’t heard the story yet, I’ll fill you in.

A British primary school teacher thought she’d motivate her students to journal. She tried a trick many teachers use in North America. She had a student share her teddy bear with the class. Then the students were asked to come up with a few names so they could later vote on the best name. The children suggested eight names including: Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad. It was really an innocent project, where the kids would take turns bringing the bear home for the weekend and then journaling about it later. Apparently, all of the journal pages were put together in a class book. One parent reported the teacher to the police stating she was insulting the Prophet of Islam by calling the bear by the same name. If convicted, the teacher could receive 40 lashes, a large fine or six months in jail.

Although the teacher should’ve been better informed about the religious beliefs of these people, this is going way too far. Cancel her contract, send her back home, but don’t punish her as though she purposely committed a crime.


  1. I believe they sentenced her to nine days in prison and then she'll be deported. I'm relieved there won't be any lashes.

    Still, the radio program I listened to this morning pointed out how ironic it is that the massive humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan got a less prompt response from the western world than this issue did.

    It's interesting how a tragedy has to be not only specific (one person, instead of hundreds of thousands), but something the audience can empathize with (a situation they can imagine being in), before they really start to care and want to help.

    It's a lesson writers have to absorb well in order to create characters the reader will empathize with.

  2. Well put. I still can't believe this even happened. Apparently, the boy who suggested Mohammad did so because it's his name and he thought it would be neat if the bear was named after him. Maybe he should be the one put in jail for nine days. Just kidding. My point is that it wasn't the teacher who suggested the name, but because she allowed the students to vote on it, she's being punished. I wonder if she would've gotten into trouble if she had told the kids they couldn't vote on that name. I can hear it now. "What? Isn't the name good enough for a bear?" LOL

  3. My son and daughter both did this in Kindergarten and first grade - Kindergarten it was Clifford the big red dog, I even made him a Birthday crown for when the kids celebrated his birthday. First grade it was Buddy Bear. It was a great way to get kids communicating, they had two pages and could include pictures and writing.

    I have to agree with JJ here, too, while I am outraged that this teacher could have met such an unbelievable penalty, essentially for misinterpretting the culture (imagine if we did that to every new immigrant who misunderstood our customs)- it is interesting that we're so closely following the fate of one person, when so many cruelties happen daily involving many people...

    Great article, so glad I found your blog here - how's the synopsis coming?

  4. It's become worse. I've been following the story and now there are people in Sudan who want her executed.

    EXECUTED! I can't believe it. I'm floored.

    I can't believe how upset these people are. I understand religious/cultural differences, but this is insane. Beyond insane, in my opinion.

    From what I understand the bear was named Muhammed after the most popular kid in class. Why aren't they going after the parents of the kid, too?

    She is in my prayers and I can't even begin to imagine how terrified she is right now.

    Here's a link to the latest story:

  5. I know. I heard about the protesting this morning. Just get her the heck out of there and be done with it! Execution! I can't believe they're even going there.

    I don't even want to imagine what must be going through that poor woman's mind. Let's hope her government moves their butt and gets her home safely as soon as possible. Like NOW!! This has gone too far.