First it was cartoons and now it is teddy bears. Where will it end?
Britain’s Telegraph reported today that Gillian Gibbons, a first grade teacher at Unity High School, a British International school in Sudan, has been arrested by the Sudanese authorities for defaming Islam. What was her crime? She allowed her class to name their teddy bear mascot Mohammed.
Now I know that most people are going to rise up and cry out against the madness that is Islam, but I am not one of them. Can you imagine a class naming its mascot Christ? Of course not. It would never even occur to people to do that. Of course if you lived in a Spanish speaking community where Jesus is a common first name, you might name your bear Jesus. But certainly that can’t apply to Islam. I mean how many Muslim men are named Mohammed?
I personally know six Muslim men and not one of them is named Mohammed, so, based on my albeit unscientific but nevertheless personally compelling survey, no Muslim men are named Mohammed so the parallel with Jesus (pronounced Hay-Suse in Spanish or Hey Yous in Brooklyn) doesn’t apply.
It is true that one might choose to name a bear Moses and Jews would not find that upsetting, but imagine Jews naming a bear YHVH? The mere fact that I wrote YHVH is a sacrilege, for which YHVH or the followers of YHVH will certainly condemn me. Then again Mohammed isn’t Allah, and the kids didn’t choose to name their bear Allah, so maybe the analogy doesn’t apply. Yet the mascot issue is as much a Jewish concern as it is an Islamic one.
Thousands of years ago the Israelites voted to name their mascot, the Golden Calf, God. When the real God, YHVH (oops, did it again!) heard about it he sent Moses to straighten them out. Thousands of people were killed for the offense of naming their cow God. In light of that act of religious justice, imprisoning and whipping Ms. Gibbons is an act of judicial leniency.
As a Jew who has learned the lesson of the Golden Calf, I am sympathetic to the Sudanese in this case. If the Jews could mistake their mascot for God, letting kids name their teddy bear Mohammed only invites confusion. In time some of them will inevitably mistake the teddy bear for the Prophet, PBH, and once that happens all hell will break loose.
So to Ms. Gibbons I say, “Damn you, woman, knoweth thou not better than to leadeth thy children into blasphemy?”
And to the Sudanese I say, “While you are whipping Ms. Gibbons for blasphemy, take a moment to test that bear for lead poisoning. It was probably made in China. You can never be too careful when it comes to our kids.”