Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Name This Bear 'Mohammed'

As I type, Liverpool school teacher Gillian Gibbons is arriving at court in Sudan to face charges of blasphemy, because she allowed schoolkids to name a teddy bear 'Mohammed'. She could end up being lashed or spending time in prison.

There is no grey area here - the state enforcing religious protocols is utterly reactionary and wrong. Religions have long proscribed taking a divinity's name in vain, perhaps based on the idea that "fear of a name just increases fear of the thing itself", as Hermione Granger says about He Who Must Not Be Named, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort.

There should be no such crime as 'blasphemy', in any country, against any religion. There is no room for excuse-mongering that Gillian Gibbons 'should have been more sensitive' or 'should have known better' or whatever. A bloke from the Sudanese Embassy said on Radio 5 this morning that he regretted this situation, regretting that Gillian Gibbons had caused it. The Unity High School in Khartoum where Gibbons worked - a private, Christian-run institution - has issued a public apology to Muslims and sacked her.

It's a gift for all manner of right-wingers - I dread to think what hay The Sun, The Daily Mail or the BNP are making with this issue. Right-winger and serious threat for London Mayor Boris Johnson uses it to come over all reasonable, whilst chucking in terms like 'bonkers', 'demented' and 'lunacy', and insisting that British Muslims somehow have responsibility over and above that of British non-Muslims to protest against the teacher's trial.

The victors in this are the religious regimes and the reactionary right - no matter how much they claim to despise each other, they feed off each other too. In the name of secularism, democracy and anti-racism, let the left stand apart from both.

Labels: , ,