12/03/2007

I'm sorry, but if you take a risk you should learn that you might get hurt

This may be controversial, but I do not have a lot of sympathy for Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher detained in Sudan. I know that she is in prison for a misunderstanding and I know she meant no offence to Islam, but she has been very stupid.

The stupidity was not just in the naming of the bear. Having taught R.E. to year five children, I am aware that there should be no images of the prophet Mohammad. Yes, she may have named the bear after a boy, but I would have known not to do it just from my own knowledge of the RE syllabus. This was not in itself enough to see her locked up, and many moderate Muslims know that this has made the branch of Islam followed in Sudan make their religion rather unfairly look intolerent.

To my mind though the greater stupidity was instead choosing to go to a country run by a radical fundamentalist government and thinking that she was somehow going to be immune to the political game going on over Darfur. Her lack of knowledge about the Prophet gave the Sudanese an excuse, and they took it willingly.

It was clear to everyone after Gordon Brown announced correctly, in my opinion, that it was time for the world to take action against the brutal regime in Khartoum, that Sudan would look for a way, any way, to have a go back at Britain, and Miss Gibbons provided them with this opportunity.

I will probably be accused of being heartless, but when anybody does something stupid or dangerous, be it pot holing, white water rapids or backpacking across Afghanistan, I can admire their bravery, but when they get in to trouble, I really have very little sympathy for them. Its not like being in the army, which to my mind is real bravery because you are taking a risk because you are defending your country. No some people take risks because they need to spice up their lives. However, with all risks you are essentially playing Russian roulette and as with this risky game, some people lose out big time.

I am aware of the political lie of the land around the world because I watch the news, I read the internet, basically I am the sort of person who chooses to make himself aware of the risks. If Gillian Gibbons thought that somehow she was going to be immune from the world political situation because she was "doing good", then she needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

The truth of the matter is that we should all be aware of the countries it is safe to go to and where it is not safe. This is not just in terms of your personal safety, but also regarding how safe you are from the government. Would I trust the officials and governments of Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan or Zimbabwe not to use me as a political pawn if they needed to score points against the UK government ? No I wouldn't.

I do hope the delegation of Muslim peers is successful in getting Miss Gibbons released. But If she had been less naive and more informed she would not have been there in the first place and even if she had been there, she might not have provided the Sudanese with an excuse in the first place.

11 comments:

Joe Otten said...

It depends how buff you are, whether you'll be used in political porn or not.

Tom Paine said...

You have listed two of the world's largest emerging markets as places that, in effect, anyone going to work is just "asking for it." Given that half of the world's GDP growth this year is in emerging markets and that those countries own two-thirds of the world's currency reserves, you are effectively suggesting that Britain should get out of business. Shall we all be primary school teachers then? Who will produce the wealth to pay our wages?

And what are we to think of a teacher who writes of being used as "political porn?" Sorry, but you're not that pretty. I think you meant a "pawn"

Anonymous said...

From what I have read, she asked the children (some of whom were presumably called Mohammed) what they wanted to call the bear. A big majority suggested Mohammed. They obviously hadn't been taught by their parents that this was not allowed.

Secondly, I don't think it's "naive" or "stupid" to volunteer to teach children in a difficult part of the world. She didn't go there to take part in political activity or to support locals involved in such activity.

Finally, you say: "many moderate Muslims know that this has made ... their religion rather unfairly look intolerent". Please explain exactly why this is unfair, given recent news about the rape victim in Saudi Arabia, women in many parts of the Muslim world being attacked if they go out without a headscarf, etc. etc.

Caron said...

I said something very similar a few days ago.

There is no excuse for locking someone up for such a trivial offence, but that's the sort of thing that regime does, and I am sure that the reasons for her detention were political rather than religious.

Having said that, Gillian Gibbons was pretty naive and there is an argument that she should have erred on the side of caution.

This does not make the Sudanese regime any less brutal, or excuse their behaviour. At least Ms Gibbons' ordeal will be over pretty quickly. There are many women who are stoned to death for adultery, or punished for being raped, for whom the ordeal will never end.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Pawn/Porn - Serves me right for writing at 00.45 hrs of the morning.

I'll alter it later.

Anonymous said...

I do think that Gillian Gibbons was either inadequately briefed by the organsation through which her teaching appointment was arranged or she simply didn't do her homework for herself.

Meral said...

I actually agree with everything you've said. Must be a first..

Norfolk Blogger said...

Tom Paine, I am not suggesting we "all be primary teachers". I am suggesting that political motivations might lead some governments to trump up charges against UK citizens.

If you thihnk the the Chinese (who have been accused this week of state sponsored cyber spying against UK businesses) and Putin in Russia (and his friend Mr Lugovoi) then your understanding of international politics differs from mine. People go there to make money, that is the risk, but with teh big bucks goes big risks.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Tom Paine, I am not suggesting we "all be primary teachers". I am suggesting that political motivations might lead some governments to trump up charges against UK citizens.

If you thihnk the the Chinese (who have been accused this week of state sponsored cyber spying against UK businesses) and Putin in Russia (and his friend Mr Lugovoi) then your understanding of international politics differs from mine. People go there to make money, that is the risk, but with teh big bucks goes big risks.

Tom Paine said...

Your wages are partly paid by the people who take those risks. A little respect might be in order, rather than envious sneering about "big bucks"

I criticised the teddy teacher too, but for grovelling to her captors, not for her decent impulse to do good works.

Since you didn't complete your thought, it's hard to confirm whether our understanding of international politics differs. I am a guest in Russia and don't comment on its politics as a matter of principle. I can certainly say that I feel safer in Moscow than I do in London. As a partner in my firm, I am paid exactly the same to work here as I would be in London, so I guess that makes me an idiot in your books?

Without such idiots, where would Britain's "invisible earnings" come from? If you instill such a spirit of pusillanimity in your Norfolk pupils, Nelson must be churning in his urn.

btw, posting your argument twice doesn't strengthen it. B^)

Norfolk Blogger said...

What an altroistic person you are, working in Russia for the benefit of the people and children of Britain and for no hint of personal gain.

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