It’s not always that I find myself agreeing with Inyat Bunglawala of the MCB but his tv protestations on Wednesday night and Thursday morning that the teddy in Sudan had been innocently named Mohammed and the scouser school-teacher should be spared conviction were spot on. Sadly they were also in vain.

15 days in jail in Khartoum and deportation is being spun by the Sudaense as getting off lightly but any sentence in this case is not just disproportionate it’s totally indefensible. After all the first-name Mohammad is common enough amongst Muslims including many Unity school pupils. Surely this case should have hinged not on the action but the intention which was clearly not malicious or blasphemous. The consequences will be seized on by all Islamophobes at an already fraught time. This decision is clearly political. It’s the flexing of muscle by the fundamentalist Khartoum government to act macho and stick two fingers up to any western ideas about applying liberal intervention in the case of the shameful mess in Darfur Being sensitive to local cultural practices when you’re a Brit abroad is one thing but the use of a newly arrived TEFL teacher and teddy bear as a pawn in this way is just  sick. It’s also a reminder of the unsympathetic nature of pure Sharia law in action in a country with an deplorable human rights record.

My three year old was chuffed that it was his turn to bring home their class cuddly toy last weekend. We were provided with a diary to record all activities we did with Max the Monkey. The nursery had’t been organised enough to send out a letter explaining the protocol. Regrettably for Gillian Gibbons she did so and this was her initial undoing. I’m dismayed that this wasn’t laughed out of court at an early stage and I suppose given the many doubts that this was a fair trial to begin with, the prospect of a successful appeal must be bleak.

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