The Teddy Bear Affair

The Teddy Bear Affair—during which a British schoolteacher was expelled from Sudan for “insulting Islam” because she allowed her students to name the class teddy bear “Muhammad” (honest, folks, I’m not making this stuff up)—has drawn lots of critical comment on the Web. But Joe Loconte says the episode reveals a disturbing pattern of appeasement of Islamist totalitarians:

The reaction of political and religious leaders abroad was less than Churchillian. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, after several days of silence, expressed his “serious concerns”–and was quick to emphasize that his government “fully respected” Islam. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, called the actions of the Sudanese government “an absurdly disproportionate response.” Muhammad Abdul Bari, of the Muslim Council of Britain, considered it “unfortunate” that Sudanese officials “were found wanting” in common sense. The U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations blandly lamented “an inappropriate use of Sudan’s legal system.”

Well-intentioned responses like these don’t make them any less insensible or misleading. Reassurances about respect for Islam fail to see the violent irrationality of the mob in Khartoum for what it was: an expression of barbarism, shamelessly cloaked in religious garb. Complaints about a “disproportionate response” by the Sudanese government fatuously imply that some sort of punishment was justified. Moreover, it is not “unfortunate” that Sudan’s political and religious establishment stoked the embers of sectarian blood-lust: It is a ghoulish throwback to the Inquisition.

Perhaps most significantly, calling it an “inappropriate” application of Sudan’s religious law to threaten a school teacher with torture and execution misses the point. It is, rather, the predictable result of an Islamist theocracy and the culture of hatred, paranoia, and violence it generates. Under Article 125 of the Sudanese constitution, Ms. Gibbons was convicted of “insulting Islam” and “inciting hatred”–catch-all provisions that assuredly create exactly what they pretend to prohibit. (It was, in fact, an aggrieved Muslim ex-employee of the school who complained to education officials.) It’s no surprise that this radical shari’a mindset provoked a civil war in Sudan that killed millions. Nor should it shock anyone that al-Bashir’s teddy bear brigades are fueling the ethnic cleansing and butchery in Darfur. This is the social mayhem that Islamist regimes threaten to produce wherever they exist–in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and beyond.

Loconte says it’s time for all good people to take a stand. The cost of continuing to cringe is higher than we think.

The disease of jihadi Islam is becoming harder to ignore with each passing outbreak. Two years ago the publication of Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad sparked global protests, riots, and lethal violence. A speech last year by Pope Benedict critical of Islamic militancy led to more protests and dozens of deaths. When a London policy group published a study into hate speech being peddled by British mosques, the Muslim Council of Britain instigated a backlash of vitriol and charges of Islamophobia.

“For almost two decades we’ve allowed the message of political Islam to breed unchallenged within the British Muslim community, preaching separation and confrontation,” writes Shiraz Maher, a former member of the militant group Hizb ut-Tahrir, in the Sunday Times. “Our indifference has allowed Islamism to become the dominant political discourse among young British Muslims.”

It should be no surprise that Islam today is politicized; there is no “separation of mosque and state” concept in Muslim theology. In Islam, politics, territorial conquest, and religion are intertwined. Of course, Christian states too have misused their religion in the past, but eventually we realized that politicizing the gospel is no way to honor the Prince of Peace, who stated categorically that his “kingdom is not of this world.” Does Islam have the potential to do the same?

Muslim apologists are quick to assert that Islam is a “religion of peace.” I’d be much more inclined to take them at their word if Muslims were more peaceful.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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