Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Teacher’s Trauma

Tuesday, 04 December 2007
By Sabria S Jawhar

A FRIEND of mine once asked me why when I'm walking down the street here in Newcastle that I nod hello to other Muslim women, wearing their hijabs, but are complete strangers. I said I didn't really know but that it's probably just an acknowledgment of solidarity as we try to navigate our way through a foreign country. When we are away from home, we feel a kinship with our brothers and sisters because deep down we somehow feel that all eyes are upon us. Fair or not, the reality is that somehow our actions dictate how Muslims are viewed in the Western World.
So nothing could be more painful for me than seeing the Sudanese arrest and convict British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons for "insulting religion." Why? Because she allowed her 7-year-old students name the class teddy bear "Muhammad."
A large percentage of the Muslim men in the world are named Muhammad. I can imagine in a fit of anger what their wives, mothers and fathers call them. How they would abuse their name during a family argument. It's what people do. But this non-Muslim woman is the target of hate for something that wasn't even her fault.
If the Sudanese government felt that strongly about her alleged crime, then getting her on the first plane back to England would have been the answer.
But to make matters worse and hold Muslims to ridicule is having hundreds - or thousands, if the Western press is to be believed - of Sudanese in Khartoum demonstrate in the street shouting for her death. I'm sorry, these people are idiots. They hurt Islam. They make us look like blood-thirsty villains. They put a negative spotlight on Muslims abroad. Their actions are not constructive to creating dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.
I do not feel solidarity with the demonstrators, but anger, frustration and maybe even a little pity.
The good news is that the Sudanese president pardoned Gibbons and she is on her way back to Britain.
I suspect that he was caught unawares of just what a messy public relations disaster this incident turned out to be.
It's also good to see that British Muslim organizations condemned the arrest and conviction of Gibbons and that two members of the House of Lords, both Muslims, were alarmed enough to fly to Sudan at their own expense and negotiate for her release. These Muslims reflect the true attitude of most of us.
There's been discussions by Muslims in the United Kingdom to established "rules of conduct" list that could be issued as early as March.
One issue that may be listed is that honor killings should be publicly denounced as "un-Islamic."
I like the idea of becoming more vocal when people do bad things in the name of our religion. I like the idea that they are held accountable for their actions.
Whether I like it or not, I feel I have been put in a position of representing the Muslim community. Maybe I'm not seen as a Muslim to Westerners, although my hijab screams otherwise.
Whatever the case, my perception is I do represent my culture and religion and I act accordingly. I wish others would do the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sabria,
re: Teachers Trauma, Saudi Gazette, 4 Dec 2007
I am a western university instructor, working in the oil production region of your native country, and as you may imagine, the opposite gender to you, so wonder if I should even be communicating with you, according to the rules here.
I agree with you on the premature judgement of this poor English primary school teacher, who thanks to whatever powers, is now safely home again in England.
I have been working on many continents and in many countries around the world during my career as a university professor for the past 20 years. I was also in the UAE, Oman, and have been here for more than 2 years.
This sort of thing that I am hearing in the media recently, such as the above incident, and the gang rape trial of a woman here in this country, is certainly deterring me from accepting future work in the Muslim countries.
It appears that any slip of the tongue or accidental behavior or happenings, can be quickly condemmed, and a person can be jailed and/or further punished- and hopefully, or at best, be deported rapidly.

I think these actions will deter doctors without borders, nurses, aid workers, organizations who fund aid for health and disaster assistance, social workers, peace corp workers, educators, volunteers, professionals, and many others, from working and doing works in Muslim countries. Furthermore, I think, it will affect travel and tourism.

I am disappointed with the people who make "mountains out of molehills", as we say, and also feel some pity , for those uneducated demonstrators on the streets, with closed minds, who unfortunately exist in all countries, around the world.

Keep writing and expressing your views, We all need to get along together in this world: What a great and wonderful gesture it was, (in my opinion) for your king to meet with the pope, recently.
Continue your good works,
My best wishes to you.