This is the kind of incident that has one potential victim, but many potential repercussions. That victim in this case is a 54-year-old schoolteacher who, newly arrived in Sudan and naive as so many are about Islam, meets with the primitive nature of Islam.
For we can all recognize and instantly grasp, the teacher’s innocence, just as we could all see the innocence of those Bulgarian nurses held for eight years by the Libyans, raped and tortured and threatened repeatedly with execution. And we know the story, of how she allowed her little seven-year-old charges to vote on the name they wanted to give the little teddy bear, little seven-year-old Muslim children not yet sufficiently brainwashed into every element of Islam, just the way some of the younger children, the American soldiers in Iraq have found, are still….still touchingly sweet, human, recognizable in their behavior, even genuinely friendly and grateful.
But just give those children a little time, a little more socializing into Islam, a few more years learning from their elders, and soon enough they will learn to be otherwise. They will learn to be like their elders are now, shifty, meretricious, hostile to those American soldiers handing them candy, soccer balls, whatever else those American soldiers, Thidwicks on the Tigris, are in the business of handing out.
The innocence of this lady was also the innocence of Daniel Pearl, who was ignorant of Islam and Muslims though he had written about Muslims, and had grown up in a family with a mother who recalled, a bit too nostalgically, stories about her life in Baghdad as a Jew. (She left Baghdad as a small child, and no doubt the stories were those of her parents, who remembered only the good, at the very time when, because of the British and the aftermath of the British presence, Jews in Baghdad had temporarily flourished or, later, had at least been left alone — until the “Farhud” of June 1-2, 1941, when hundreds were killed.) Pearl was unschooled in Islam and too trusting. And then there was that young American boy, who grew up in a household with a father, Michael Berg, who was sure everyone in the world was fine, save possibly American right-wing capitalists, and gave his son the same terminally naive worldview. That son, Nicholas Berg, flew up, on his own, mind you, to Iraq to “help” the “people of Iraq” in building up their country. And for his pains, he was decapitated, to shouts of Allahu Akbar, on camera.
The schoolteacher in Khartoum taught not in a primitive village, but in a school for the children of Western diplomats and of the Sudanese elite — akin to the American School in Kuwait City and other such schools, especially Christian-run schools, all over the Muslim world. The Muslim elite of course is eager to send its children to such schools, recognizing that schools run, say, by Jesuits in Baghdad, or nuns in Pakistan, are likely to provide an education far superior to any offered by a Muslim-run school. That eagerness to have one’s own children attend schools run by Americans or Europeans, often Catholic schools, and then to attend university in the West, does not translate into any recognition that something must be wrong with Islam and societies suffused with Islam — and only the denial of such possibilities will force Muslims to begin to think in those terms, as they should, as we must create the conditions that will force them to do so.
The poor lady is no doubt very upset. But the case, from the viewpoint of Infidels, and the close-up look at the behavior of those screaming crowds calling for her death — that is good, that is useful. That is the kind of thing Western television, which does not know how to cover something unseen — the texts and tenets of Islam — will be sure to cover.
The Teddy Bear Incident.
It’s like “Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead.” There is an individual life at stake — the life of someone with whom all of us can identify, and whom none of us can fault. We might, any one of us, in the West, have asked our seven-year-old charges to “name that bear.” We might, sweetly, have thought — “Muhammad is the name of three-quarters of the kids in the class, so why not let them name the bear Muhammad?”
We might. Once. But not now. Now we hear the screams for death and won’t forget them. We know that the ludicrous government of an absurd place called the Sudan has tried and sentenced this lady. We are no longer in the mood, as we might have been, to take such places seriously. Or at least, to treat them with any respect. Why should we?