Editor’s note: There is rioting in Sudanese streets calling for the death of a woman over a teddy bear named Mohammed. What can we in the West possibly do with this — nationally, individually? How do we help? What must we learn from it? National Review Online asked a group of experts and commentators.
The rioting in the Sudanese streets calling for the death of an innocent woman, Gillian Gibbon, over a teddy bear’s name, would not surprise any person familiar with traditional Islamic society. The rioting occurred under government instigation and that, without it, probably nothing similar would have happened. The Sudanese government’s motivation might have been to arouse in the Muslim mob anti-British and anti-Western feelings, while humiliating the former colonial British power and the West.
What can we do in the West? First, each of us should understand how the theological and legal rules and framework in sharia society function. We should know that the whole Muslim world, even the countries we mistakenly call “moderate,” moves toward unification under sharia rule and traditional Koranic values. We should understand that because we share this planet with over a billion Muslims, represented by 57 countries, this situation concerns each one of us in our homeland and abroad.
What can we do to save this innocent woman? We should create a world movement of solidarity with her, hang her portrait everywhere, organize manifestations for her liberation putting her poster in every newspaper, and oblige our governments to move out of their usual cowardly silence. We should do that also for the innocent victims of Darfur, of Chad, masses of men, women, children enslaved, expelled, dehumanized, whose martyrdom one finds endlessly repeated over a millennium and more of dhimmitude throughout the land of Islam.
– Bat Yeor, born in Egypt, is a British citizen who has been living in Switzerland since 1960. She is the author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, among other books.
Much of the response to the teddy-bear incident has been naïve. In Khartoum, the crowds baying for Gillian Gibbons’s blood carried pre-printed posters, just as the anti-Danish cartoon protesters on the West Bank and elsewhere, just happened to have lots of Danish flags at hand. The Islamist Khartoum regime is exploiting the teacher’s arrest — apparently the result of a rivalry between her and a politically connected colleague — to foment anti-western feeling and to combat pressure about Darfur.
Regimes like that of Sudan’s Omar Bashir know all too well that the Western media has an endless appetite for apparent manifestations of “Muslim anger,” and invariably takes them at face value. Earnest anchormen and BBC “experts” take one look at screaming (always all-male) demonstrators — whether Sadrist rent-a-mobs in Basra, semi-professional demonstrators in London, or government-sponsored crowds in Damascus — and assume they express genuine Muslim “fury.” In response, Western politicians call for more attention to be paid to ultra-delicate yet violent Muslim sensibilities. At the same time many ordinary Muslims wonder if they should be as angry as their coreligionists waving banners and threatening murder.
We should be wary of manufactured “rage” in the Arab or North African street — and our journalists should be more skeptical when confronted by telegenic demonstrations — otherwise we play into the hands of cynical murderous regimes and encourage the worst tendencies in modern Islam.
As for the absurd blasphemy charge in the teddy-bear case, it should be clear by now that the standard cowardly response of Western societies to “Muslim anger” helps no-one; indeed it empowers extremists and encourages an Islamic sensibility that is both hypersensitive and bullying. Perhaps we need to show that, though we are no longer have an “honor culture,” we too can be dangerously offended, especially by the uncivilized religious intolerance of certain Muslim states.
– Jonathan Foreman has reported from the Muslim world.