And so Muhammad Teddy Bear Madness draws to a close, as international attention focused on the madness of Islamic supremacist fanatics once again causes them to back down. Unfortunately, however, the principles by which Gillian Gibbons was arrested and imprisoned in the first place still remain.
“Sudan president pardons British teacher,” by Alfred de Montesquiou for Associated Press:
KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudan’s president on Monday pardoned a British teacher jailed here for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad “” putting an end to a case that has outraged Britons and Muslims around the world.
The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, said she did not intend to offend anyone and had great respect for Islam.
And what if she didn’t? What if she had intended to offend them? Would it then be justified to imprison her, lash her, execute her?
Sudanese officials said she would be released later Monday, the same day two Muslim British politicians met with President Omar al-Bashir to seek the pardon.
“The president has told us he has already signed the papers for her pardon,” Lord Nazir Ahmed, who met al-Bashir along with Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a fellow representative from Britain’s House of Lords, told reporters afterward.
In a written statement released by the presidential palace and read by Warsi to reporters, 54-year-old Gibbons said she was sorry if she caused any “distress.”
“I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone,” Gibbons said in the statement. “I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but I am very sorry that I will be unable to return to Sudan.”
In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was delighted by news.
“Common sense has prevailed,” Brown said in a statement.
During her trial, the weeping teacher said she had intended no harm….
I’m not so sure, Gordon. Even if she had meant harm, you and all Western leaders should have been standing up for her. The idea that one may legitimately be imprisoned, or lashed, or even killed for poking fun at someone still remains. Do you understand how this threatens the foundation of free society? Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination, once you declare that these people — whoever they may be — must at all costs not be offended, or if they are they’re perfectly within their rights to stone, or lash, or imprison, or kill the offender, then you have destroyed one of the foundations for free inquiry. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to kill one another if their neighbor’s opinions offend them. If offensive speech had been prohibited in the 1770s, there would be no United States of America, and that is one of the reasons for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Whenever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. No less in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.
Sudan’s ambassador in London, Khalid al-Mubarak, said he was “overjoyed” by the news.
“She is a teacher who went to teach our children English and she has helped a great deal and I am very grateful,” al-Mubarak said. “What has happened was a cultural misunderstanding, a minor one, and I hope she, her family and the British people won’t be affected by what has happened.”
No, sir, not a minor one at all. The implications of it, in fact, couldn’t be more far-reaching.