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"Teddy" Parents Speak out

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  • World View
    Teddy Parents Speak out By Ismail Kamal Kushkush, IOL Correspondent
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7 1:57 PM
      "Teddy" Parents Speak out
      By Ismail Kamal Kushkush, IOL Correspondent

      "Not one parent complained about Ms. (Gillian) Gibbons," Abu Hasabu
      told IOL.

      KHARTOUM — Now that the dust has settled, some parents are speaking
      out to set the record straight about the controversy of the "Mohamed"
      teddy bear.

      "We want to clarify things. We are the stakeholders as parents," Isam
      Abu Hasabu, the chair of the private Unity High School's
      Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), told IslamOnline.net.

      "Not one parent complained about Ms. (Gillian)Gibbons," he maintained.

      Gibbons, a British female teacher, decided to give a name to a
      teddy-bear that would be used for a class-project.

      Her class's 6-7 year-olds chose the name Mohamed, it being the name of
      more than one student in the classroom.

      The teacher then sent letters to the parents informing them about the
      project in September.

      Sudan reportedly launched legal action against Gibbons on the grounds
      that parents accused her of insulting Islam.

      "No family complained," insisted Abdel Mahmoud al-Koronky, another
      student parent.

      "Gibbons' mistake was that she gave the letters to the students
      [directly]; not to the school-director, who would have revised or
      refused it," he said.

      IOL has learned that investigations are now focusing on a school
      employee, Sara Al-Khawadh, who passed a letter of complaint against
      Gibbons to the State of Khartoum's Ministry of Education.

      Khawadh has been sacked from the school.

      Gibbons, a mother of two, was initially sentenced to fifteen days in
      prison, but was pardoned by President Omar Al-Bashir thanks to the
      good offices of two British Muslim peers.


      Some parents also blamed cultural differences for the teddy bear
      controversy. (IOL photo)

      The parents blamed the fuss on anti-West sentiments running high in
      the Arab-African Muslim country.

      "People did not quietly review what actually happened," said Koronky.

      "She behaved innocently. If she had a secret agenda, she would have
      not sent letters to the parents," he reasoned.

      "She apologized. Did anyone split her heart to know her [real]

      Koronky said anti-West sentiments have been extra-tense, citing the
      Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet and what many in Sudan believe
      to be mis-portrayal of the Darfur crisis in the West.

      "Some in the pubic opinion wanted to settle scores with British
      foreign policy," believes the former diplomat, who once served in London.

      British Prime Minister Jordon Brown has recently warned Khartoum of
      tougher sanctions over the Darfur conflict.

      Koronky was himself the subject of widely media-covered accusations of
      holding a "slave-girl" in his London residence.

      "I support the teacher out of my religious ethics. I was once attacked
      by the Christian Right in Britain."

      He was later cleared of the accusations.

      Some parents also blamed cultural differences for the teddy bear

      "This was a mistake because of different culture values," said Abu
      Hasabu, the PTA chair.

      "This teacher was new. She came with an idea that some educational
      practices would be acceptable."

      Koronky agrees with the cultural difference argument.

      "The symbol of an animal is different from culture to culture," he notes.

      "Teddy-bears are viewed as 'friendly' in the West. But a bear here is
      seen a wild and beastly."

      A link to the actual letter can be found at

      * Isma'il Kamal Kushkush is a Sudanese-American freelance writer
      currently based in Khartoum, Sudan.



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