A teddy bear called “Mohammad”: does Islam need an even scarier image?

Mohammed Teddybear protest
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Sword-wielding, picture-buring, crazy-faced men. This is, again, the image of Islam and muslims in the global media.

What are these men calling for? The EXECUTION of the British school teacher who is now jailed in Sudan for allowing her seven-year-old students call a teddy-bear Muhammad.

Wow.

Now go and read the comments on this story on Al-Jazeera’s or Al-Arabiya’s web sites. What you get is the digital version of the the crazy-faced, sword-wielding protestors, shouting online.

Although a good number of the comments on Arab web sites are actually calling for the teacher’s release, because the whole matter is actually a farce, you still get an angry majority who are shouting their condemnation of the “infidel West” that “dares” to insult the prophet of Islam.

Some of these commenters don’t want to believe that the kids themselves called the bear Muhammad. No! “The teacher made the kids do it” one commenter writes.

Whatever the truth is, this matter should have never left the confines of the school where the British lady taught. It seems one crazy fanatic hater inside the school started this fire by informing the “authorities” about this “incident”.

History seems to be repeating itself, with ever increasing silliness. First the cartoon crisis, now this.

Islam’s global reputation is being shaped into something scary, intolerant and violent. As if the world is not scared enough of Islam already.

The crazy haters provide the scary images and the media provides the global distribution. A perfect match.

There is no way, even from a religious point of view, to ask for the execution of the teacher. Still, you have some people who are able move protestors onto the streets to call for such a thing.

In my opinion, it is the role of every reasonable muslim and human being to speak out against this horrendous, dark culture of violence and hate that has hijacked the image (and also the REALITY) of islamic communities. And when I say speak out, it means speak out loudly on the street and in the mosque and at school. The fanatics should not be allowed to pretend they have the moral high ground just because the appear as defending the prophet.

There is no way for the global muslim to move forward and, at the same time, tolerate this fanatism.

Judging from the comments on big Arab news sites there are a lot of fanatics among us. But even if reasonable Muslims are in the minority (which might actually be the case) they should not just shut up when faced by those who want to keep all of us in a dark age.

Read the condemnation of the affair by the Muslim Council of Britain and other Muslim organizations.


21 Responses to “A teddy bear called “Mohammad”: does Islam need an even scarier image?”

  1. Suham Says:

    tens of thousands of Muslims are slaughtered by Christians and Jews in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Lebanon and you will not hear anyone blaming Christianity or Judaism.

    the acts of the Sudanese government and Sudanese hoodlums should reflect on them only.

    How come Christan and Jewish brutality to Muslims, which far exceeds Muslims’ by order of magnitude never translates to sweeping generalizations and self-flagellation by Christians or Jews? but here we are Muslims feeling the heat for the acts of ANY hoodlum who happens to be Muslim?

    something is wrong with this picture. it’s as of the West is trigger happy. It’s as if the west is fishing for anything to go on the offensive.

    the last show was the Saudi rape victim. Sure she is a rape victim who was unjustly treated. but the joke is that the same Americans who butchered tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children and paid jews to kill same in Lebanon and Palestine, all of a sudden they become pro women’s right.

    something is seriously wrong with this picture. i don’t think western show of indignation is driven by humanitarian concerns. I think it’s driven by an increasing hatred of Muslims and a rise in intolerance.

  2. Moey Says:

    so what! big deal, they called the teddybear, their own teddybear or calling it other names sar mesh 7aram, they didnt mean to hurt elrasool!

  3. Saqf Says:

    Salam Abu Qais,

    I completely share your frustration, but I can have a bigger share being here in Japan which makes it harder.

    Whether I like it or not, I represent Muslims, Arabs, Jordanians, Palestinians, and of course Middle Easterners.

    It is very stressful to have such responsibility on daily basis. Whatever I do or say will be taken as an example of all the above mentioned backgrounds.

    The Japanese are not the ones to be impressed with Muslims themselves, because they have a great deal of what Muslims should have, which is courtesy, punctuality and sincerity in everything they do. This explains why the few Japanese Muslims I encountered were convinced with Islam by reading about it (from its sources), not by meeting Muslims.

    So, when I struggle to show how Islam teaches us all these good things, and how it is a “Modern” religion and encourages science and influenced art, I read this horrendous piece of ignorant news, and feel my efforts are smashed up into smithereens.

    I will not let those ignorant people hijack my beloved religion from me. I will keep on trying to be a good Muslim and share everyone its fruit.

    History repeats itself, and now we are back to the Age of Ignorance “Aljahilliah”.

    Allah almusta3aan.

  4. kinzi Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Even tho I know it gets frustrating to keep repeating that this is not the Islam practiced by most Muslims, don’t stop saying it. We Christians have the same image problem with predatory priests, jet-setting tele-evangelists and the Jesus Camp fiasco.

    The nasty minority voices get the most press, but a calm and consistent response like this will keep them from defining the majority. Don’t give up.

  5. Lowfields Says:

    Suham,

    I think the distinction lies in the fact that this idiocy – and there is no other appropriate word – is done in the name of a religion. Religion (in this case Islam) is the only reason for the action of these individuals.

    Recent Western atrocities, while abhorrent, clearly aren’t motivated by piety, or executed in the name of defending the word of Jesus – at their heart is the desire for oil, power, influence, arms, economics, geo-politics, etc. It may have been “Christians” doing it, but I don’t recall the odious proclomations of Powell, Rumsfeld or Cheney ever resorting to scripture.

    However, the Sudanese morons, and their call to murder the utterly benign figure of a middle-aged British schoolteacher, were acting solely on a religious pretext. So is in entirely appropriate to cite the religion of those doing it. Otherwise, the whole story would lack meaning or context.

    Unfortunately, should the Western media seek to launch partisan attacks on Islam, there are a glut of examples of religiously-motivated insanity for them to drawn on. For instance, the Taliban’s destruction of 8th century Buddhist statues was done in the name of religion and religion alone.

    Islam is far from unique in inspiring crazy devotion – a Jehovah’s witness recently refused his pregnant wife a blood transfusion, and she died in childbirth – but when things are done in a religion’s name, the religion of those involved has to be highlighted.

    The problem isn’t Islam per se. The problem is religion.

    The quicker it is taken out of the public or political sphere, and more urgently it becomes a matter of private conscience and contemplation, the quicker humanity can develop…. and the quicker schoolteachers can teach free from the constraints of medieval morality.

  6. Morrissey Says:

    We can’t sink any lower But unfortunately our case strongly suggets that we will! What a heartache!

  7. omar Says:

    even if the teacher told them to call it Mohammad, I’m 100% sure she didn’t mean it to devalue our prophet in any form. She was just telling them to call their teddybears after Arabic names she knows. I’m sure she said a whole lot of other names.

    sigh
    when does the intolerance end?

  8. Abed Says:

    “I think the distinction lies in the fact that this idiocy – and there is no other appropriate word – is done in the name of a religion.”

    Oh, I see. so as long as you don’t do it in the name of religion, you get to slaughter Muslims by the tens of thousands. That makes it all OK.

    you are one smart fella.

  9. MR Says:

    Greetings, I am young Muslim American and I am against this. Please see my post about this:
    http://www.mujahideenryder.net/2007/12/02/to-the-sudanese-teddy-bear-protesters/

  10. Humeid Says:

    I don’t think that Lowfields is condoning any killings. Let’s try to be accurate here.

    Also, let’s remember that muslims are killing muslims too. There is no point in portraying this as an “West BAAAAAAD. Islam GOOOOD” case.

    The simple fact is that there are fanatics. Currently, Islamic societies have an over-abundance of those at every level. They need to be confronted or else they and the fanatics in the west will drag us all down with them.

  11. abed Says:

    Fanatism in a lot of muslim countries, Jordan included, is a sad fact. A lot of people in our countries lives religion like a “political” thing, so it became a sort of ideology, and ideology is a problem by itself, because it means not to use rationalism in the way of living and approaching problems.

    Even small things in our existence, not to own a dog or how many centimeters of hijab you should wear is fanatism, because by doing this we misunderstand the spirit of “commandments” and just apply them without living the essence of what they mean.

  12. Dan Says:

    Thanks Lowfield & Ahmad,

    you express exactly what I feel. Pointing at others’ crimes does not make crimes in the name of islam any better. Why is there this reflex in the Middle East (or is it the whole arab region? or is it just arab islam?) to point at others as soon as you are critizised for something? Can someone explain that to me? Sometimes it sounds as if some people try to legitimate their fellow religous worshipers’ crimes by telling me that they are not the only ones who commit crimes. Ha!

  13. 3abbood Says:

    Ahmad, there is no mention of West is baaaaaaad or islam is gooooooood anywhere. so please don’t put your own cliches in people’s mouth.

    what’s being said is that there is a rising intolerance in the West of anything related to islam. muslims are being put under a microscope, so while far more henous crimes are being committed by people who are Christians and jews against people who are muslim, they are not being put under a microscope and Christians and jews are not feeling any heat for it, and nor should they since it’s not fair to generalize.

    but muslims are feeling the heat for acts of intolerance that pale by comparison. if you reverse this story, such as the Australian race riots against Arabs a couple of years back. it was written off in the international media as “racial tensions.” and remember how many Muslim illegal immigrants are drowned by European border patrols? how come that never made an international incident. but israeli spy Danial Pear becomes an international incident and an English lady in Sudan become international incidents.

    and Ahmad, please spare us the muslims-kill-muslims-too argument. this is what the americans and the zionists say when they kill arabs. you are endorsing the racist argument that somehow when muslims kill muslims that it makes it OK for anyone else to kill Muslims. also, the more disturbing argument is that so long as you don’t use ay religion terms in the open, it’s OK to kill people from a religion you hate.

    the sad part is I never thought of myself as “us” or “Muslim” . but this is where things seem to be heading.

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  15. Lowfields Says:

    Mr Abed,

    And I’m not the smart one?

    Read the post again. This time carefully. Then you can stop wilfully misrepresenting what I said. (And this from someone who supports human rights, too… shame!)

    I was addressing the complaint from one poster that the coverage of this teddy bear nonsense was unfair as it drew a connection between the actions of the Sudanese mobs and their religion (Islam), while no such link is made between Western powers’ actions in the Middle East and their religion (mainly Christian).

    My contention is that the complaint is utterly baseless.

    As hideous and illegal as the actions of the US and Britain have been in Iraq and elsewhere, not one of them can be better explained by the executors’ religion or their religious beliefs. Journalists and historians can point to oil, power, arms or geo-politics as to the real reasons behind Western interventions, but religious scripture or practice would scarcely inform their research. Basically, the religion of the assailants in this case is utterly immaterial to their actions.

    In the Sudanese case, however, their desire to hang a middle-aged British woman was based on NOTHING OTHER THAN THEIR RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS. Therefore, the religion of the mob isn’t just relevant to the story – it is the story.

    So, what the West does in the Middle East – even if it does deserve nothing short of contempt and disgust – is 100 per cent irrelevant to this case and how it should be reported.

    Basically, their both wrong. But the Sudanese are wrong because of their f***ed up religious beliefs.

    But feel free to continue to try to excuse the actions of idiots using fairy-stories from mankind’s intellectual infancy for crimes against humanity… although you may want to change the name of your website if you do.

  16. Humeid Says:

    3abood,

    I happen to agree with you that there is a rising suspicion of muslims in the west. In fact I have sensed this myself on a recent trip to Germany.

    We are living in a quite bleak period of Muslim-Western relations. My personal opinion is that both sides are to blame.

    But still.. the basic difference between the Muslim world and the Western world seems to me, these days, that in the West you get plenty of people willing to engage in self criticism of the their culture and leaders, while ‘we’ the Muslims always try to find excuses for our brothers (usually by pointing out how bad the world is).

    Even in mainstream Hollywood movies they are making fun of Bush and criticizing his wars. Millions demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq. But in the Muslim camp, any voice of self criticism is quickly shut up (either by conservative governments or through social pressure).

    The West is more able to “put itself under the microscope” than the Muslim world is.

    Lastly, again don’t try to portray me as endorsing racist agendas. When I state the fact that muslims are killing muslims, I am in no way saying that killing muslims is ok. I am just saying that attributing all our problems is neither accurate, nor constructive.

  17. Lowfields Says:

    I think the standards of open debate are in serious trouble if those disagreeing with the notion that the Sudanese group are reactionary idiots – which is their right, of course – resort to accusing their ideological opponents of supporting genocide or racism.

    This is simple: the Sudanese mob are backward fools whose actions should be rejected by everyone – and I’m sorry, but non-Muslims should be free to voice that opinion irrespective of Muslim sensibilities.

    Why can’t anyone accept that this is not an attack on anyone’s faith, it’s an attack on faith-based stupidity??

  18. Robert Says:

    While a given, the west can be horribly two faced, there was no call to take out injustices from one on another, and based completely on race as well as it seems this teacher has been.

    This was purely lashing out in frustration, and while I can understand that, i cannot condone it. These people have been “hurt” and marginalized, and take it out on the first representation of the “thing” that hurt them.

    It’s very human however, and the MOB mentality as we call it has done similar things all over the world. Anyone remember the race riots in the U.S.?

    Sadly, most people probalby didn’t care, a small percentage did care a bit, and then of course the idiots came out and stirred the pot. Same thing here, you think the looters in the U.S. riots cared for racial equality?

    I doubt very much the “zealots” going nazi over the teddy bear, are really caring about the teddy bear and the insult. This is a means to an end…and not a very creative one at that.

  19. Fulaan Says:

    “while ‘we’ the Muslims always try to find excuses for our brothers”

    please ahmad, stop using cliches in your arguments.

    the most self-hating people are Muslims. the self-hate and self-flagellation is evident on the blogs, in newspaper editorials and opinion pieces, part of everyday people discussions at cafes during family gatherings. it’s always the same pessimism about the backwardness of islam and the bottomless pit and all that negativity.

    but if you consider denouncing the israeli and American invasions as finding “excuses for our brothers” , then we are worlds apart.

  20. Humeid Says:

    Fulaan..

    The ‘self hating’ accusation is always the ready-made weapon people use against anyone who tries to be critical.

    And I wonder where you see all criticism of our culture. Maybe a few intellectuals here and there that hardly nobody reads. All I see in the mainstream is the glorification of anything with the ‘islamic’ label on it.

    Denouncing American and Israeli invasions is one thing. Denouncing our ‘own brothers’ is another thing. Don’t keep mixing them up in every argument you make.

  21. Lowfields Says:

    “Self-hate” isn’t really a ready-made weapon, Ahmad, it is an utterly toothless one that, far from blunting criticism, merely highlights the poverty of the defence. And, in all honesty, it is utterly meaningless.

    In New York, the Jewish American who offers the utterly sensible analysis that the occupation runs contrary to the notion of Israel being a democracy is routinely described as “self-hating”.

    On Fox News, the American who says that the prosecution of the War on terror is a ham-fisted disaster is accused of “hating America”.

    Now in the Arab World, the Muslim who decides that Sudanese reactionaries calling for the execution of a middle-aged British woman on the most pathetic pretext might not be the greatest reflection on the glory of Islam is also called “self-hating”.

    And what they have in common is their respective communities’ inability to deal with perfectly reasonable criticism.

    Of course, if a non-Muslim says “Those Sudanese guys are a bunch of idiots who represent everything that’s wrong with uncritical application of religious doctrine”, the same people would scream “bigot”!

    I think it’s a rather sad state of affairs when people line up to defend, say, the flogging of a Saudi woman for being raped on the basis of what America did to Baghdad….

    But here’s a clue: THEY’RE NOT REMOTELY RELATED.

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