Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, right, receives Lord Nazir Ahmed, left, a Muslim member of Britain’s upper house, at a meeting Monday in Khartoum.
I almost want to shout “Free at last, Free at last….” Well you get the point. So I just got the news about the pending release of convicted “Teddy Bear Teacher”, Gillian Gibbons from both MSNBC and CNN. I read both articles in order to get the most out of the story I can, digesting as many facts as possible and analyzing how they portrayed the Muslim involvement in the release.
There are some important elements to this story that should not be overlooked. The most important is the release of the teacher Gillian Gibbons, however I wanted to focus on what led up to the release and the role Muslims played in it, contrary to the oft-repeated silence that is the lack of positive Muslim news.
Last week as the news truly broke that this teacher was jailed for allowing 20 out of 23 students in the class to name their teddy Mohammed, I was deeply angered and upset when things went for the worse in Sudan as “thousands” of Sudanese were reportedly “upset” at such a light sentence and calling for her execution. Many were marching and waving ceremonial swords.
I can’t help but admit that I had a bad taste in my mouth upon receiving this “news”. I get so sick and tired of the backward thinking and foolishness of some Muslims, that I just want to scream at times. I’m certain many Muslims like me were sick to their stomachs as well.
Fortunately, many Muslims did infact voice their support for Gibbons and the Muslim Council of Britain stepped up to the plate by issuing a formal denouncement of the Sudanese actions. This was a strong counter to the oft-repeated stereotype and accusation that all Muslims are in lock step with such decisions and beliefs.
The one thing I criticize the media on is the constant lack of coverage on Muslims especially those that were AGAINST Ms. Gibbons punishment. This was a great time for the media to show the stark difference between Muslims of conscience (the majority) versus those….well….like in Khartoum.
I for one wanted to highlight that contrary to widespread beliefs against Muslims, this time it appears that it was reported at least in some capacity, that Muslims had a direct influence and impact on the decision that led to Gibbons’ release.
According to both articles:
“The teacher’s conviction under Sudan’s Islamic Sharia law shocked Britons and many Muslims worldwide. It also inflamed passions among many Sudanese, some of whom called for her execution.” – MSNBC
“The pardon came following efforts by Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, Muslim members of the House of Lords, to persuade the Sudanese government that releasing Gibbons would create international goodwill toward their country.” – CNN
I know it’s not much, but it’s a step in the right direction. Here is proof that
A: All Muslims are not alike
B: Things can change once we include Muslims dealing with Muslims
Many non-Muslims last week overwhelming put their cards on the table letting the world know that all Muslims are backward, evil, etc. and that our religion was barbaric, cruel, etc. one poster on a message board even said “another example of why I hate that religion”.
Muslims such as myself were obviously disturbed because we get tired of being lumped into the 1% or so of our so-called co-adherents that do not represent the majority. We also get tired of those who defame us latching on to stories such as this to “vindicate” their ill-will and hate.
What we as Muslims have to do is be swift to action and condemnation against such stories, accusations, and events. We also have to make strong efforts to ensure that we are represented in negotiations and the political discourse.
As we have seen in the case of the government of Britain and it’s Muslims, this is feasible, possible, and inspiring. There are a lot of lessons in this ordeal, the greatest in my opinion, is that it is possible for Muslims to stand up and take back our religion.
When I say take back our religion I’m talking about education and perception. Education to those members of our religion that claim and act as if Islam is something it is not (like the govt of Sudan) and perception against those who would utilize and highlight this incident to further condemn every Muslim on the planet.
The best way to do both is to be strong advocates for truth through action. We have to challenge these “scholars” in those countries and spread the truth of Islam to it’s citizens. We have to issue statements, proclamations, press releases, march, go on TV radio, etc. and engage any and EVERYBODY.
Make no mistake our community and religion is under attack from the inside and outside. This is a two pronged battle that must be won, lest we all continue to feel the effects of actions we neither support nor engage in. I for one am tired of the back and forth debate that ensues when another incident becomes national news.
As long as we let others control the debate and provide the “evidence” we continue to lose.