On Liberty and Teddy Bears

Sudan’s President has pardoned the British schoolteacher sentenced to jail for allowing her elementary school students to name a teddy bear ‘Mohammed.’ She has now left the Sudan, announcing her regret at having to leave—and her regret that she will not be able to return. This incident, bizarre as it may seem, appears to be part of a general pattern of events, including the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the Danish cartoons affair, structured to attack freedom of speech.

The New York Times asks what message this sends about Islam. I’d say it sends exactly the message those behind these events intend to send: Don’t Mess with Islam. The more bizarre and seemingly irrational the case, the more effectively that message is transmitted. It’s already having significant chilling effects on speech.

I understand her regret at leaving, but I wish the schoolteacher had said something like what Baron Bodissey recommended:

I have nothing but contempt for the barbaric and cowardly people who did these vile things to me, and I shall never again set foot in that backward hellhole known as Sudan.

Meanwhile, a gang rape victim in Saudi Arabia still faces the lash for the “crime” of being in public with a man to which she was not related. She was found guilty and sentenced to 90 lashes. Then, when she had the temerity to appeal and go to the press, her punishment was increased to 200 lashes, and disbarment proceedings were started against her lawyer. For anyone wondering what such punishment is like, here is the Amnesty International page on Saudi Arabia.

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