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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Teddy" Parents Speak out

By Ismail Kamal Kushkush, IOL Correspondent

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.

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] intentions?"

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 controversy.

"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."

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