By Sukant ChandanEnglish primary school teacher Gillian Gibbons has been involved in what appears to be one of the most absurd political and diplomatic rifts in the ‘war on terror’. Apparently the 54 year old mother of two while working in a school in
The tone of the Brown government throughout this case has been relatively restrained. The British Government possibly calculated that Sudanese public opinion, while divided in their attitudes over Gibbons inadvertent mistake, would have rallied around
The Gibbons incident was the last thing that East-West, Muslim-West relations needed in this time and age. Gibbons, who as far as we know is a dedicated and likeable teacher was someone that the British media paraded as a victim of ‘Muslims gone mad’ over such an innocent and puerile thing as the naming of a class teddy-bear. While the government held back from an aggressive approach to Gibbons’ arrest and imprisonment, the British mainstream media incessantly churned out story after story out of context whipping up anti-Muslim feeling. Expecting the Gibbons incident not to have been a field day for sections of the media who make money out of depicting Muslims as irrational and violent was highly unlikely to say the least. Even the liberal comedian Clive Anderson, and well-known political satirist Ian Hislop on the BBC’s current affairs satire show Have I Got News For You, vented their barely disguised disgust of Muslims in
The BBC did briefly put things into perspective when on December the 2nd Sunday morning a BBC News 24 reporter stated that the Sudanese government does not want to be seen as caving into demands of “the former colonial masters”, which was changed later in the day to the same reporter stating that the Sudanese government does not want to be seen to be “caving into Britain”. For many across the world the concepts of colonialism and
The only time in the media the Sudanese were allowed to speak for themselves and give an explanation was when the Sudanese ambassador to London Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig gave a brief interview to Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow. Siddig was asked by Snow as to the reasons for the reactions to the incident by the Sudanese authorities and the more militant reactions of a hundred or so Sudanese people. Siddig explained that this has to be put into context of the changed atmosphere since 911 with Islamophobic comments by some in the Western press in insulting the Prophet, and that this ‘poisoned the air’ and resulted in sensitivity amongst Muslims. Cultural differences regarding religion also plays a role in this crisis as Sudan, like many other Muslims countries Sudan is a place where religion is never mocked let alone that a toy or pet could be given a religious name which could be seen as idolatry.
The Western-government promoted ‘Save Darfur’ campaign could also be another reason why some Sudanese public opinion is so sensitive to the classroom incident. The people of the Darfur region of
The Gibbons case has been a perfect opportunity for those in the media who are looking for a cheap story in the now tired routine of depicting crazed brown and black people, preferably brown and black Muslims, baying for the blood of a white person. At the same time this whole episode could have passed without a fuss if those at the school in
Sukant Chandan is a London-based freelance journalist, researcher and political analyst. He runs two websites: http://ouraim.blogspot.com/ and http://sonsofmalcolm.blogspot.com/ and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org