Something frightening is happening to all of us and we're not paying attention to it. The world at large seems to be going slightly mad, but thats not the scary part. Its the fact that we're going a little Gillian Gibbons on important issues.
This nondescript, nice looking middle aged lady and a teacher - someone who reminds me of my mother, decided that at 54, she needed a "bit of adventure" in her life and taking up a teaching post in Sudan would fit that bill very nicely ... literally a far cry from her no doubt routine life as a wife, mother and teacher in safe Liverpool. What she got instead was what she endearingly/naively? refers to as "a bit more than I bargained for". And there, in that too understated for the occassion statement, lies one of the truly scary things I've heard lately.
For those of you following this obscure story in Sudan, the teacher in question was sentenced to 15 days in prison for allowing her primary school students to name a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohammed. This was part of a little naming game she was playing with her class - a supposedly harmless, educational excersise where students would name their stuffed toy a name of their choice. The fact that 40 out 44 of those children chose the name "Mohammed" may have had something to do with the fact that she selected it as the clear winner.
The Sudanese government and hardliners however, beg to differ. Gillian's little ordinary, everyday act was deemed an "insult to Islam" for which she was taken into custody, put through a full fledged court hearing and then, in all defiance of the thing we once knew as common sense, was actually sentenced to prison for 15 days where she received a presidential pardon after carrying out 6 days of the term.
Let this be a lesson to the rest of the world the hardliners say. They could have sentenced her to 40 lashes and even execution for this heinous and blatant disregard for the supposedly collective Muslim sentiment - but they have been oh so humane in only stripping her of her safe, prtoected middle aged dignity and reducing to ashes the entire basis that defines her life as a human being and subjecting her to the sort of time in court that we wouldn't imagine in our worst nightmares for near and dear. Charitable I call it folks. Positively charitable.
And scary part? Gillian Gibbons in her actions and statements since her release has indicated to the world at large that she somehow deserved all of it. That she had caused offence - and is teary eyed about how it was never her intention to do so. "I was very upset to think that I might have caused offense to people", she said. She cloaks the sentence she served in a vague cloud of "its a delicate area" and should not be discussed. The victim has identified with the oppressor.
The hardliners were always there. But a new and more dangerous element is now in the mix - its us. We who used to be outraged and active are now all justification and passivity. The other point of view is slowly becoming the only point of view - black and white are no longer good colours and this, along with Daniel Pearl and countless others is going to be an old forgotten story in the big book of 21st century horror tales.