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The Sudanese teddy bear blasphemy case concerns the arrest, trial, conviction, imprisonment and subsequent release of a Britishmarker schoolteacher working at Unity High Schoolmarker in Sudanmarker in 2007.


Gillian Gibbons (born 1953) from Liverpoolmarker (where she gained a BEd from the CF Mott College of Education on Huyton Lane in Prescotmarker in 1975 - the college closed in 1992) was arrested by Sudanese authorities for allegedly insulting Islam by allowing her class to name a teddy bear "Muhammad". A boy in the class, also named Muhammad, later claimed that the bear was named after him.

Initially it was thought that the complaint had originated from a parent of one of the children at the school. However, it was later revealed that an office assistant employed at the school, Sara Khawad, had filed the complaint and was the key witness for the prosecution.

The prevalent Sunni Muslim opinion is to condemn any depictions of Muhammad, whom Muslims regard as the last messenger and prophet of God. However, many Muslim organizations in other countries publicly condemned the Sudanese over their reactions, as Gibbons did not set out to cause offence.

Conviction and reaction

On 28 November 2007, it was reported that Gibbons had been formally charged under Section 125 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, for "insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs". This carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment, a fine, or 40 lashes.

On 29 November 2007, Gibbons was found guilty of "insulting religion", one of the three counts against her, and was sentenced to 15 days' imprisonment and deportation. The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organization of British Muslim groups, said the punishment was "completely unjustified" and that it was "appalled", and called on the Sudanese government to intervene.

On 30 November approximately 400 protesters took to the streets, some of them waving swords and machetes, demanding Gibbons's execution after imams denounced her during Friday prayers. During the march, chants of "Shame, shame on the UK", "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad" were heard. Witnesses reported that government employees were involved in inciting the protests. Gibbons was then moved to a secret location because of fears for her safety.


In an attempt to push for the release of Gibbons, two British Muslim peers (members of the House of Lordsmarker), Lord Ahmed (Labour) and Baroness Warsi (Conservative), visited Sudan with hopes of talking to the country's President Omar al-Bashir.

While the two British politicians were meeting the President on 3 December it was announced that Mrs. Gibbons was to be released from prison after granted a Presidential pardon. She was released from prison into the care of the British embassy in Khartoummarker and later returned to her hometown in Britain, after issuing a written statement saying: "I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone."


The school was closed until January 2008 for the safety of pupils and staff as reprisals were feared.

See also


  1. Sudanese Views differ in Teddy Row, BBC News
  2. Teddy row teacher freed from jail, BBC World Service, 3 December 2007
  3. " Teddy bear" teacher leaves Sudan after pardon", MSNBC

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