Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Mohammed Teddy Bear & Sudan

There were some things I wanted to say about the recent situation in the Sudan, where a British teacher allowed some 7 year old kids to name a teddy bear Mohammed, triggering riots, her arrest, and public calls for her execution... but Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post pretty much said it for me, in an article I just came across.

A few brief excerpts:

the West still finds it difficult to produce anything resembling a common, united, reasonable reaction to these periodic spasms of fanatical outrage, no matter what truly absurd forms they take.

the Great Sudanese Teddy Bear Controversy, like its Dutch, Danish and papal precedents, was not actually a religious or cultural affair: It was purely political. Nobody -- not the other teachers, the parents or the children -- was offended by Mohammed the teddy bear (who received his name in September) until the matter was taken up by a totalitarian government, handed over to what appears to have been a carefully orchestrated mob, and briefly turned into yet another tool of domestic terror and international defiance.

So it wasn't really about religious people being offended. It was about politics and control. The tepid reaction by many in the West isn't helping matters. Not that we should have taken to the streets, chanting and demanding the execution of Sudanese leaders, but surely there's a way to rationally express the statement "This is unacceptable." And Ms. Applebaum makes one more key point, when she addresses the impact the situation must have had on the kids in that school. What lessons did they learn?

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