UK: British Muslims back "teddy bear teacher"

British Muslims have given their backing to teacher Gillian Gibbons, 54, who is facing charges in Sudan that she insulted Islam and incited hatred by allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammad.

Here is reaction from some British Islamic groups.

-- Muslim Council of Britain, (MCB), Britain's largest Muslim organisation:

"This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the MCB.

"The children in Ms Gibbons' class and their parents have all testified as to her innocence in this matter. We call upon the Sudanese President, Umar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Ms Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal."

-- Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation:

"The Ramadhan Foundation urges the Sudanese Authorities to immediately release Gillian Gibbons as she has not set out deliberately to offend or demonise Islam and Muslims," said Mohammed Shafiq.

"This matter is not worthy of arrest or detention and her continued detention will not help repair the misconceptions about Islam.

"Like migrants coming to this country have to learn English, our values and customs, it is imperative that British citizens learn the values, customs and beliefs of their adopted country.

"The usual suspects are using this to demonise and attack Islam; this is wrong and is racism and prejudice of its worse sort."

-- British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a group which supports a clear separation between state and religion:

"We appeal to the Sudanese government to review their decision to take legal proceedings against Ms Gibbons, and remember that millions of British non-Muslims show deep respect towards the Islamic faith and live harmoniously with its followers in the UK," said Dr Shaaz Mahboob.

"Ms Gibbons did not mean any disrespect towards the Prophet Mohammad. Such a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the Sudanese government would highlight the Islamic spirit of tolerance and forgiveness."

--The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, an international organisation which advocates understanding among different faiths:

"This was clearly an innocent mistake from a teacher who was trying her utmost to teach the young children under her charge," said Abid Khan.

"Such charges, as issued by the Sudanese authorities, are totally unacceptable. We hope and pray that Ms Gibbons is freed as soon as possible and that she comes to no harm at all. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this worrying time."

Source: Reuters (English)

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