Needless to say, this is complete bull and an obvious and pathetic attempt by the barbaric Sudanese government to get another negotiating card as it heads into yet another round of talks on Darfur and the South. Memo to the Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh al-Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood: now's the time to speak up against this kind of politicization of Islam that embarrasses us all.
Despite her colleagues insisting it was an innocent mistake, Sudan's deputy justice minister confirmed yesterday that a charge had been laid. "The investigation has been completed and the Briton Gillian was charged under article 125 of the penal code," said Abdel Daim Zamrawi, speaking to the official Sudan news agency in Khartoum. "The punishment for this is jail, a fine and lashes. It is up to the judge to determine the sentence."
[From British teacher charged with insulting Islam over teddy bear's name | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited]
Some analysts saw ulterior motives. There are tensions between Britain and Sudan over the conflict in Darfur. In a Guardian interview this month, President Omar al-Bashir expressed anger at the threat of UK sanctions against Sudan if peace talks failed.
Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a prominent peace activist in Khartoum, said: "This was an opportunity for the government to distract people from the main issues in Sudan: the problems between the authorities in the north and south of the country, the conflict in Darfur and the question of letting in United Nations peacekeepers."
There were reports yesterday of pamphlets being circulated in Khartoum calling on people to protest against the teacher after Friday prayers. But many people seemed to take her side. Muhammad Kamal Aldeen Muhammad, a 20-year-old student, said it was clear that she had not intended to insult the prophet. "All she was doing was trying to help her students. The government is looking at this purely from an Islamic perspective."