Sudan's Teddy Bear Fiasco

Fanatics demanded the execution of expatriate British school teacher Gillian Gibbons for  'insulting' the Muslim Prophet after her pupils in Sudan decided to name a Teddy Bear Mohammed. For me the Islamic world had a perfect opportunity to show the infidel West what the Muslim faith is all about: peace, love and above all  — tolerance, writes Phil Simms.

Instead what we witnessed was 10,000 hate-filled yobs wielding machetes and axes, calling for the teacher to be KILLED over her  'insensitive blasphemy'. If this was supposed to be a show of solidarity against us, the former colonial oppressors, I'm afraid I'm just not buying it. Moreover, I find it incredibly hard to believe that any religious text incites murder even if it is in defence of their figurehead.

Indeed, under strict Islamic laws, it is forbidden to create craven images of Mohammed, or any other religious figure. But this is where I have a problem. Those of you with school-age children will of course know that Barnaby bear - the name Ms Gibbons claims the bear originally had - is a widely-used teaching aid for geography. So leave aside the fact that she was innocent of the offense in question.

She was jailed even though the bear was named by her pupils after one of their classmates. Now unless the bear in question was a particularly evil bear I find it hard to take that they have a case. Surely by allowing the name-calling the teacher was engaging students with the subject matter, and in doing so engaging pupils with religion.

But yet we see thousands of banner waving extremists marching on the city's Unity High School  — where Gillian taught, calling for her to be put up against a wall and shot. The situation is made all the more laughable when one realizes the petty nature of her indictment. It has emerged that the school secretary Sarah Khawad had reported her because she disliked her. Gillian from Aigburth, Liverpool, escaped receiving 40 lashes but was instead thrown into one of Sudan's prisons for 15 days, which is to be followed by deportation.

* See also 'What the Muslims say', The-Latest, a BBC Tv interview by Mark Lawson with US Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf.