The Real Teddy Bear Tragedy

In all the heat generated by the teddy bear controversy in Sudan, we are missing a deeper reality: As irrational … Continued

In all the heat generated by the teddy bear controversy in Sudan, we are missing a deeper reality: As irrational and backward as the reaction in Khartoum might seem, it is yet another example of some Muslims attempting to assert themselves and exercise a little authority in the face of the immense onslaught of Western hegemony in the region.

The facts are that Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher at a private school in Khartoum, had her 7-year-old students name a teddy bear and they overwhelmingly chose “Muhammad.” The students took turns taking the bear home and wrote a diary about what they did with it, which was compiled into a book with a picture of the bear and the title “My Name is Muhammad.” Some parents were offended and the Sudanese government responded by arresting and charging Gibbons with insulting the Prophet of Islam.

The charge is without merit, of course. But it is worth noting that for Muslims, the idea of calling any object other than a human being “Muhammad” is sacrilegious. With Jews, Muslims share a prohibition of making physical images of any living things. An exception is made for children’s toys. Calling the image of any animal Muhammad, a name that Muslims won’t utter without a benediction is, for them, beyond the pale. Turks even prefer the contraction Mehmet to avoid using the name in common circumstances. Westerners have a hard time understanding such reverence in a markedly irreverent age.

In the West, teddy bears are objects of devotion for little children and for most adults fond memories of a cuddly teddy bear endure. A child calling a teddy bear Jesus, for instance, may seem inappropriate, but would likely elicit a response of “How cute!” Westerners are dumbfounded at what appears to be an absolutely insane response to an unfortunate lack of cultural sensitivity. But so, I would venture, are most Muslims.

I was appalled by the response of the Sudanese authorities and denounce their arrest of Ms. Gibbons. I am glad she has been released. The danger here is that despite most Sudanese being beautiful and proudly hospitable people, too many Westerners will nonetheless see them as barbarians unworthy of respect. Hence, it fuels the current attacks on them due to their government’s failure to address Darfur’s serious problems. Far from being xenophobic or genocidal, I know the Sudanese to be a serene and irenic desert people. Even Ms. Gibbons now says that she has been treated well by the Sudanese. “I have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from the Sudanese people. I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone and I am sorry if I caused any distress,” she said.

Unfortunately, millions of Muslims all over the globe are humiliated and betrayed by the ignorance and lack of basic humanity that a small minority of Muslims too often exhibits. Should I, however, bring this up with many of my Muslim brothers and sisters a common response is: “It’s true, but look at what the West is doing to Muslims; 800,000 thousand dead in Iraq. And what about Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and the rest? Why don’t Western people denounce these atrocities against us and only harp about how backward we are?” A famous Iraqi poet once wrote, “If one person is harmed it is an unpardonable sin, but a whole people’s destruction is something to debate.” Unfortunately, these Western horrors against the Muslims demand responses, but Muslims must also recognize and denounce these wrongs too often associated with our Prophet and our faith without always pointing fingers elsewhere.

Our current world can go one of two ways at this crossroad. We can go down the path of more violence, more hatred and more alienation, or we can attempt to understand each other, recognize our real differences, and display mutual respect. True religion — as well as the highest secular values — demands we take the latter road.

Indeed, the situation in Sudan is a medieval misunderstanding and overreaction. So are the myriad cases of torture, rape and pillaging that are now part of our daily patch of foreign, and increasingly, domestic news. Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world.

So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.

Hamza Yusuf, an original “On Faith” panelist, is an American-born scholar of Islamic law and the executive director of the Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

About

  • mischka

    Assalamu Alaikum -”Calling the image of any animal Muhammad, a name that Muslims won’t utter without a benediction is, for them, beyond the pale.”I understand what you say in the above sentence and agree with the overall sentiment in your essay. However, one thing I dont understand is how come children are named Muhammad? I know there is a difference between a human being and a toy but shouldnt it be sacreligious to name someone Muhammad as well? Its the Prophet’s (pbuh) name and if we get angry at children naming a cute teddy bear Muhammad out of pure love for their Prophet (pbuh) then what about this? “Unfortunately, these Western horrors against the Muslims demand responses, but Muslims must also recognize and denounce these wrongs too often associated with our Prophet and our faith without always pointing fingers elsewhere.”What about the things that we are responsible for? What about our image in the world’s eyes right now? It cant all be someone else. Some of it is our fault too. And we cant ignore that because its easier to point fingers.”Indeed, the situation in Sudan is a medieval misunderstanding and overreaction.”This is true – I will never agree with what happened in Sudan and am sickened by the amount of time and energy spent over such a trivial matter when there is poverty, famine, illiteracy, etc to focus on. We have no shortage of issues to address but where are we spending our energy? On unnecessary rubbish. IF we had exerted even half the effort on a matter worth publicizing…we would have made headlines in a GOOD way. “So are the myriad cases of torture, rape and pillaging that are now part of our daily patch of foreign, and increasingly, domestic news. Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world.”Its the clash of the modern world versus the traditional world. There will be some discomfort and “growing pains” as Muslims adjust to a different way of life. Not a different set of rules…a different way of life. You dont have to change who you are…you may want to adapt a little bit to your surroundings though. There is a very reasonable way to be a Muslim in the modern world and NOT compromise your beliefs in the process.

  • duale

    I wholeheartedly agree with Hamza Yusuf. The Ummah is under siege.

  • VICTORIA

    i think the brothers point is a relevant one. since the entire world, includingmuslims, seem to be approaching this incident from a purely western society perspective (of which i am a product) by asking, what motivated such an overreaction? of course their reaction was way out of proportion to the perceived offense- but it doesnt mean there wasnt some offense there. heres a quick story to illustrate- probably similar to the disrespect and non-recognition experienced by te sudanese(in this instance) i worked for 2 years with native american inidans in the fields doing farmwork, and more importantly, i went to the reservations and taught basic english and art. but before i undertook such an enterprise- i realized that i was teaching CHILDREN and that i needed to understand, and be sensitive to the beliefs and mores of their parents. and also be sensitive to the fears of the society itself( particularly native women were sensitive to american women fraternizing with their men) so i acted accrodingly, discovered what issues were contentious, entered and exited publicly , dressed with some modesty and didnt proseltytize or imply their ways needed revising or changing, but respected them by learning about them. it is hard for me to imagine how an educated woman form the west, could not have heard about the reaction of muslims worldwide over the cartoons in denmark and have some remote awareness of the sacredness of the name Muhammad to muslims. be that as it may- even if she was that unaware- the entire incident should move us to be more educated about the cultures of peoples who we are involving ourselves in their communities, not simply dismiss the reaction i ama also sure no one anywhere has shown any anger at the children themselves. certainly in the west it seems like a non-issue (strangely enough i was watching the report on the young man who killed 8 people in the mall yeasterday and the woman being interviewed seemed to get the most outraged when she related that the man shot a teddy bear- she was saying incredulously, ‘WHY WOULD HE DO THAT??” people focus on small manageable issues when confronted with larger ones too hard to deal with, don’t they? in this case, the large issue of a society feeling overwhelmed by (and also abandoned ) western intrusion in their lives seems to be the core of the overreaction, the act of naming a teddy bear, just the catalyst for deeper issues. it certainly woud be effective if the west truned its attentions to that region in a helpful way, wouldnt it?

  • Anonymous

    “Our current world can go one of two ways at this crossroad. We can go down the path of more violence, more hatred and more alienation, or we can attempt to understand each other, recognize our real differences, and display mutual respect. True religion — as well as the highest secular values — demands we take the latter road.”I agree with this assessment of the situation of the world today.My Nichiren Buddhist practice teaches the same attitude of mutual respect for other religions. Nichiren refers to the concept as an Expedient Means.Patrick

  • Thomas Baum

    TO MISCHKA: You wrote, ” I will never agree with what happened in Sudan and am sickened by the amount of time and energy spent over such a trivial matter when there is poverty, famine, illiteracy, etc to focus on. We have no shortage of issues to address but where are we spending our energy? On unnecessary rubbish. IF we had exerted even half the effort on a matter worth publicizing…we would have made headlines in a GOOD way.” If the time and energy was not spent on such a “trivial” matter who knows what might have become of this woman. I do not think the freedom and maybe the very life of a human being should be called trivial, do you? Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum

  • Asma N.

    Thank you so much for your perspective, Shaykh Hamza! It’s truly great to hear real voices that too often are not picked up by the media.

  • Asim MA, San Antonio

    An overly exaggarated resonse to an innocent mistake:coming from a culture where cuddly Teddy Bears are treated with affection,she named it Mohammed,a very common name in the Muslim world,and not necessairly the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)-end of the story.Am humilated by this ugly and unjustified response to a guest in the warm and hospitable Sudenes Muslim land, who came a long way to teach these Muslim children;the Sudanese authorities have no right to behave in the name of Islam-not in my name any way-and there is no Koranic or Sunnah injunction to punish this lady for this innocent misunderstanding.She was decent enough to acknowledge the warmth and hospitaility of the Sudense people even after her imprisonment.As Muslims,we should judge our behavior according to Islamic standards and norms of understanding,decency and compassion especially to forigners and guests in our lands-and not accodring to Western standards of the Inquisition,the horrors of the holocaust,the crusaders,colonialism,genocide of Bosnian and Chechan Mulsims,the creation of and the support for the racist and apartheid israel and decemation of Iraq-WHY? Because the West is not necessairly our good example-and we should hold the higher moral grounds and leave Bush’s blunders sink him into the lowest moral standards.That the West has and is commiting untold agony and pain on Muslims,does not justify the ordeal of the British teacher-I mean the West in a very broad snese, because we can not condemn whole sale all of the west for the blunders of its self-serving politicians:millions of people in western capitals demonstrated against the Iraq war-and hardly any in the Muslim world because of oppression and the absence of freedom of expression.I say to the authorities in Sudan:not in my name and if they U are so keen about defending Islam then march on Jerusalem,the place from which the Prophet (pbuh)made his Isra,and liberate and save the Palestinians or march on Baghdad and save the Iraqis from foreign occupation.

  • yasmeen khalid

    Sheikh Hamza,thank you so much for this article.

  • A.H. Sellars

    Peace be upon all,Shaykh Hamza, you time and scholarship are appreciated.”Defending the Prophet” with behavior contrary to his way is like trying to inflate a balloon after punching holes in it.The remedy for all of this can be found in the three, short verses of Surah ‘Asr (Quran, Chapter 103).

  • Taahir Abdur-Rahim

    In The Name of God.

  • Paganplace

    A fair enough assessment, author… but when it really comes down to it, you had a teacher *jailed and under threat of potentially-lethal flogging… and people screaming in the streets for her death… because *children* named a *toy* in a way said teacher didn’t know or presume to ‘correct.’ That’s just not *respectable.* I don’t think it’s respectable when Christians behave so (or in shades of such) about anything *they* don’t like, and I don’t think it’s respectable of anyone claiming to represent a ‘great religion.’This could have been handled better than putting that teacher through that and then ‘pardoning’ her for her ‘grievous sin.’I consider it, perhaps, an opportunity lost for the doubtless-bewildered children, who would have had to live with their own mistake getting their teacher killed by random freaked-out adults and the government… To learn:A) this part of their own culture that the people so bent on blood apparently never saw fit to inform them about, and B) How to handle things like this without completely losing it. It’s not for having these beliefs that people necessarily don’t respect what Sudan did.It’s how it was ‘handled.’

  • VICTORIA

    there are several things we can do- some are included in the site linked mr eboo patel just wrote aninteresting article on “soft power” and it’s rise in american mentality at this time the hard power you describe hasnt seemed to work very well, has it? for one thing, we could let our lawmakers know that the billions of dollars were shipping to israel every year to buy bakc weapons we manufacture here to threaten its neighbors would be better spent on aid to countries that really could use our helpjust imagine if the world saw america with a hand extended that held food or water instead of a grenade? how much of an impact would that have on other countries? remeber when the tsunami hit? japan (whose gnp is dwarfed next to ours) offered 350 million the next day america matched that offer the way we act as a nation has far reaching effectswhat a beautiful thing to compete for goodness( or at least being preceived as good) follow that link you will find options of giving voiceto your concerns

  • Paganplace

    I feel I should say, when I said “you had” I wasn’t accusing the author of having anything to do with this, I was being careless about a regional colloquialism of my own: the sort of thing like “You got (meaning: In the case of) all this snow, what do you do,” that kind of thing. :)

  • Paganplace

    And, I agree, Victoria. I think America’s lackluster response to the tsunami, especially in terms of war-spending, was, like Katrina, and even the rolling blackouts and brownouts in California that *really* messed up our economy, but got lost in the 9/11 hysteria, …well, I think these are national disgraces. In like measure, Khartoum had a lot of nerve pretending they were being ‘big’ about the *teddy bear* while Darfur is going on.

  • Tim

    “….it is yet another example of some Muslims attempting to assert themselves and exercise a little authority in the face of the immense onslaught of Western hegemony in the region.”I don’t get it? He is blaming Western hegemony for this incident. It is amazing to me that no matter what stupid, violent things these people do in the name of Islam and the great prophet it is always our fault that they acted the way they do. It really gets old. Did you ever think that the stress on Islam is because of an obsolete system trying to adjust to modernity? We in the west can not be blamed for the world changing and moving into the future while Islam is stuck in the past. Please, the teddy bear was all about Islam and Big Mo being perceived as being dissed. That reaction has been programed into Islam for over 1,400 years. Sorry but blame this nonsense on Mohamed not on the West.

  • Paganplace

    I do think that if they want a teacher bloodily-murdered in the street over their own kids naming a teddy bear affectionately after both their prophet and half the dudes in the country…While of course, butchering the animists over *their* beliefs, something the pious in the West don’t actually seem to mind…That ‘Western hegemony’ might be the least of their worries. Just putting that out there.

  • mischka

    Hey Thomas -”If the time and energy was not spent on such a “trivial” matter who knows what might have become of this woman.”That is not the issue – if you had understood my post then you wouldnt have said that. By TRIVIAL I meant – the naming of a teddy bear by a classromm full of 7 year olds. How is such a tiny matter worthy of SO much drama and how does it justify what the teacher had to go through??? It doesnt!IF we had focused all of the same energy towards matters of importance – we would be in a better place. Meaning, in my opinion, I think the teacher probably should have had a talk with the school principle so he could let her know how sensitive the topic is – AT THE MOST. “I do not think the freedom and maybe the very life of a human being should be called trivial, do you?”Tom – Please dont understand what you want to understand. My post made perfect sense and I still stand by it. I offered you clarification. Take it or leave it.

  • KennyBoy

    There you go again, the vast majority of muslims are peaceful fun-loving people. It’s all the fault of a bunch of irrational extremists, who just happen to run the muslim countries and religion. We would never let a bunch of lying, self intersted neanderthals like that run… Oh, wait a munute… Sorry.

  • mohamed

    great artical by shaykh hamza yusuf may allah preserve him for the ummah amin

  • mohamed

    great artical by shaykh hamza yusuf may allah preserve him for the ummah amin

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    The ruling leaders of the Muslim, Arab-African hybrid people of the northern half of Sudan are an embarassment to all of humanity. Since their independence in 1956 they were engaged in an ethnic cleansing against the Negroid races of the southern half of the country. Now that the South finally gained some degree of autonomy, thanks to the aid of some of its neighbors in sub- Saharan Africa, the fanatics of Khartoum turned their attention toward the Negroid races of the western Sudan; known as Darfur. Excluding the other is ingrained in their primitive and fanatic tribal culture. With this background jailing a teacher for naming a doll, maybe should not be too surprising.

  • mohamed

    salam all mashallah a great artical from shaykh hamza yusuf as always may allah preserve him for this ummah and reward him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • mohamed

    salam all mashallah a great artical from shaykh hamza yusuf as always may allah preserve him for this ummah and reward him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • Paganplace

    Is that a way of saying to Sudan, “Congratulations, sportoes, you’ve successfully frightened a lot of children about teachers, stuffies, and everyone they live with?” :)

  • mohamed

    salam all mashallah a great artical from shaykh hamza yusuf as always may allah preserve him for this ummah and reward him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • mohamed

    salam all mashallah a great artical from shaykh hamza yusuf as always may allah preserve him for this ummah and reward him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • Paganplace

    Or should I have you stoned for naming your Internet posts ‘Mohamed?’ Could be, though, when you start talking about ‘adult things’ like swords and bombs, I’ll remember how some *other* people who tried to tell a youngster what she owed to ‘God’ cause certain actions brought irrational-but-’divinely’-and-state-sanctioned reprisals against people we were supposed to trust and obey half a minute ago… Frankly, if I even need to, I remember the beatings *I* went through over stuffed animals, and figure, given we all grew up and can handle swords and firearms, now, that it’s just possible it’s time to start being adults.Go figure.

  • Paganplace

    Also, you can hit ‘post’ once. it works. Just may take some time. It never helps to hit ‘post’ more than twice.

  • Paganplace

    It’s really not the kids with teddy bears that disturb me about the Sudan, you see. What they name their Kalashnikov, …*that* bothers me.

  • halozcel

    *There is a very reasonable way to be a muslim in the modern world*.*WHY WOULD HE DO THAT*(killing 8 people in the mall).*Because the West is not necessairly our(islamic) good example*.*I think America’s lackluster response to the tsunami*

  • Paganplace

    Halo, I fear it’s dignifying that with a response to mention I’m not dignifying that with a response. But, a) it’s not my understanding that black is deep-desert-wear, and b) if you were ever sun-sensitive you might just know that black is actually the thinnest fabric you can wear without getting scorched just standing out in the sun. While I don’t approve of the religious compulsion, black, while it may get hot, actually soaks up more of the UV. This is not to say it doesn’t suck, but, really,You pays your money and you takes your choice. By the time you’ hit a certain temperature, it’s down to ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out In The Noonday Sun’. Really.

  • Michael

    From the secular point of view, I think that Muhammad was a significant public figure, and, therefore, he is fair game for criticism just like other public figures. Even when the consensus is that a person is extremely good, as is the case for people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Theresa, expressing an opposing viewpoint is not necessarily reprehensible and is certainly a person’s right. We have this right since public figures affect us, so we may comment on what they do. From this point of view, it is not a moral obligation to make sure that any reference we make to Muhammad is reverential in every possible connotation (even if it were true that Muhammad is a flawless human being). From the religious point of view, I do not think that I am required to be respectful toward Muhammad. I don’t think that Muhammad was God’s Profit, being one of the ~4 million non-Muslims, so to me Muhammad doesn’t have any more significance than any other cultural or historical figure and I have no obligation to revere him.Religious tolerance is the final argument I can see for me being required to respect Muhammad. Since misuse of the name Muhammad is offensive to Muslims, it might seem like I’d need to avoid this in order to be tolerant. However, this is false. What tolerance requires is that I accept people who do believe that Muhammad is God’s Profit, even if I don’t share this belief, and that I don’t infringe on their rights to revere him. However, they cannot expect me not to exercise my right to comment on Muhammad as a public figure. Religious tolerance must work in this way, with people respecting each other’s rights, even when they have contradicting beliefs. It would be impractical to expect everyone to be bound by every religious precept that they don’t believe.Thank you.

  • Michael

    I meant “~4 billion non-Muslims.”

  • Michael

    … and “prophet” not “profit.”

  • Paganplace

    Jungian slip. It happens.

  • mohamed

    mashallah a great artical as always may allah preserve shaykh hamza yusuf for this ummah and reward him for his efforts in this dunya and akira and give him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • mohamed

    mashallah a great artical as always may allah preserve shaykh hamza yusuf for this ummah and reward him for his efforts in this dunya and akira and give him and his family jannah firdous amin

  • VICTORIA

    i reread brother yusuf’s article and noticed it was a private school so i assume privation wasnt an issue-

  • DecemberRains

    This teddy bear incident can be explained as, “Muslims attempting to assert themselves and exercise a little authority in the face of the immense onslaught of Western hegemony in the region”- this is an interesting statement. Too often us ‘Westerners’ lack self-awareness and forget how people in the world perceive us. Although, it is not an excuse, this statement sheds light to a small-minority of Sudanese people.

  • Paganplace

    You know, this has literally kept me up all night. Stop the genocide of tribal peoples. Then maybe you get to get pissy about a teddy bear. If then. Certainly not before.

  • waj

    to gaby.yes,you seem to go all over the world to root out problems so why not sudan.the west can all go as an ally and kill all the men women and children.i mean they are good at that arent they?

  • Ali

    For those who have responded to this article with the approach of Saying, dont blame the west , blame Muhammed …. You are missing the point of the article ….the essence of the article is to say that dont force your values upon others, which is west is guilty of and in no way ashamed about it.Democracy for all is an example of this. If the Muslim lands are content with Sharia, why impose “modern” visions of democracy.This can apply vice versa also!!Get the point please, haters!

  • M. A. George

    Oh, please. Do not try and con us into thinking that those shrieking, mindless, bloody-thristy mobs screaming for an innocent woman’s death were only or even mainly protesting cultural imperialism! Oh, please.

  • Pubert

    800,000 dead!? Please.

  • AC

    A well atriculated response by Hamza Yousaf. It is sad to see how our media plays to show “bad” people look really bad in the name of “that is what people want to hear”. It was an innocent misunderstanding of a foreigner not understanding local culture and norms. End of story. Media made it big becaue it was a juicy story about A british woman being mistreated in a muslim country.

  • Joe

    Three things.First, Jews do not have any prohibition against teddy bears or making images of any living thing. I find it deeply ironic that so very many of the Muslim writer at this paper are always so very ready to trash Jews, and then turn around and try to use us a some vehicle for legitimacy.Second, Jews don’t pour out of houses of worship demanding the death of people involved with insulting Judaism – let someone involved in a dreaded teddy-bear incident. Not a single Jew has ever called for your head for instance.Third, I am very, very tired of all of this balme the West for everything drivel. There are civilised ways to assert one’s culture. Now if you look in the a English dictionary, you will find words to describe the behaviour of many people in places like Sudan. The words are: Violent, Fanatical, Ignorant, Backwards, Barbaric.That is their fault. Also, is the genocide that these butchers are perpetrating also something that is the fault of the West?

  • Joe

    Three things.First, Jews do not have any prohibition against teddy bears or making images of any living thing. I find it deeply ironic that so very many of the Muslim writer at this paper are always so very ready to trash Jews, and then turn around and try to use us a some vehicle for legitimacy.Second, Jews don’t pour out of houses of worship demanding the death of people involved with insulting Judaism – let someone involved in a dreaded teddy-bear incident. Not a single Jew has ever called for your head for instance.Third, I am very, very tired of all of this blame the West for everything drivel. There are civilised ways to assert one’s culture. Now if you look in the a English dictionary, you will find words to describe the behaviour of many people in places like Sudan. The words are: Violent, Fanatical, Ignorant, Backwards, Barbaric.That is their fault. Also, is the genocide that these butchers are perpetrating also something that is the fault of the West?

  • Joe

    And another thing…What misleading garbage is this:”Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world. So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.”First off, was there ever a period when Sudan was not barbaric? Second, how is the violent fanaticism of Islam the fault of the West. Before the west was powerful, Islam had quite it’s share of violent fanatics.Finally. At it’s very, very worst, the United States and dare I say it, Israel, is nothing – nothing at all like the actual genocide committing monsters in Sudan.

  • Shabana

    Muslims, please lighten up. Keep your religion at home. you can be good Muslims and also be tolerant. You know you shouldn’t idolise the prophet, but you do in so many ways by killing anything that you consider an infraction! You think Allah needs your help in meteing out punishment when his “last prophet” is insulted? Get a grip!

  • Joe

    And another thing…What misleading garbage is this:”Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world. So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.”First off, was there ever a period when Sudan was not barbaric? Second, how is the violent fanaticism of Islam the fault of the West. Before the west was powerful, Islam had quite it’s share of violent fanatics.Finally. At it’s very, very worst, the United States and dare I say it, Israel, is nothing – nothing at all like the actual genocide committing monsters in Sudan.

  • Mohamed Shommo

    I agree with Sh Hamza on most of what he mentioned. I would think the lady wouldn’t have accepted the name Mohamed has she known the culture. Any way , the precise description is “overreaction” by both the Sudanese crowds and the western media which ignored thousands of falling muslims every day by their unjustified wars against muslim regions.

  • Mohamed Shommo

    I agree with Sh Hamza on most of what he mentioned. I would think the lady wouldn’t have accepted the name Mohamed has she known the culture. Any way , the precise description is “overreaction” by both the Sudanese crowds and the western media which ignored thousands of falling muslims every day and made this front page news.

  • bobby

    It never ceases to amaze me when Muslims complain about the thousands dying in Iraq but fail to admit that 90% are being killed by other Mulsims.Hypocrisy.

  • Dian Alyan

    Excellent write up by one of my favorite scholars.Sincerely,

  • truthynesslover

    the outrage in the west against the policies of this administration is seen everywhere. Bush and his accomplices are reviled en mass everywhere they go.Gonzolez was greeted at his first speech after his resignation with students dressed in orange jump suits and hoods.In stark contrast where is the outrage over the policies in the middle east by muslim countries.We just started our inhumane torture policies yet this practice is common in the middle east.When a suicide bomber kills innocent people in isreal where is the outrage by muslims

  • truthynesslover

    the outrage in the west against the policies of this administration is seen everywhere. Bush and his accomplices are reviled en mass everywhere they go.Gonzolez was greeted at his first speech after his resignation with students dressed in orange jump suits and hoods.In stark contrast where is the outrage over the policies in the middle east by muslim countries.We just started our inhumane torture policies yet this practice is common in the middle east.When a suicide bomber kills innocent people in isreal where is the outrage by muslims

  • truthynesslover

    the outrage in the west against the policies of this administration is seen everywhere. Bush and his accomplices are reviled en mass everywhere they go.Gonzolez was greeted at his first speech after his resignation with students dressed in orange jump suits and hoods.In stark contrast where is the outrage over the policies in the middle east by muslim countries.We just started our inhumane torture policies yet this practice is common in the middle east.When a suicide bomber kills innocent people in isreal where is the outrage by muslims

  • Gaby

    WAJ, whatever prompted you to think I condone the murder of Sudanese men, women and children? And no, the west is no more good at it than anyone else. Of the 10 worst incumbent dictators, none is from the west. As far as Sudan goes, Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir does a fine job of killing off the population.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria,All your “reasoning” will not deflect the words of this famous quote:”Until the koran is “deflawed”, no one is safe”!!!!

  • Sister

    As-Salaam i think definitely a lack of understanding there is!

  • FD

    I too, as a Muslim, was dumbfounded by the reaction the naming of the teddy bear received. I love our Prophet, pbuh, and all Muslims should, however, we must remember his character. He, pbuh, smiled at his adversaries when they insulted him, injured him, and even tried to kill him. This reaction is definitely not with his wisdom.Also, it has been published, search google, that non of the parents of the children reacted in such a way. Which shows that this is cooked up by a bunch of people who want to use this in order to send a message of some sorts. God knows what it is.

  • Mike

    Shaykh Hamza, thank you and may Allah increase you in wisdom…

  • Ali Malik

    Hello,I agree with MR. Hanson on this issue and denounce the atrocities committed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Athena, Athena, Athena,If indeed the British negotiators were Muslims (you give no references), they should have noted that Islam as with Christianity, Judaism and Paganism, has significant flaws with said flaws giving rise to significantly stupid actions like threatening the life of a caring teacher.And they should have concluded their negotiations with that famous quote, “Until the koran is “deflawed”, no one is safe!!!!”

  • j

    The people of Sudan are the loser for losing a dedicated teacher and a gentle person who still inspite of her treatment has nothing but respect for her students and the people.

  • j

    The people of Sudan are the loser for losing a dedicated teacher and a gentle person who still inspite of her treatment has nothing but respect for her students and the people.

  • LEEN AL-MASRI

    ASALAMU ALAYKUM

  • suade

    peace be upon you

  • hanan

    In the Name of Allah the most Beneficent the most Merciful

  • Bashir A Aziz

    The parents of children involeved are to be blamed for this controversy and not the teacher. If these parents had provided to their childern correct and sufficient knowledge about their religion, the children would not have named a teddy bear “Muhammad”.Salam,

  • musa sokoto

    as salaam alaikum,shaykh hamza’s reponse was good.This response indicates long term thinking and the integrity of Islam mjst be defended and maintained by multiple means the first is good chracter.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Everyone, How could any muslim even think about criticizing an article by Hamza Yusuf. Arrogant people talk to your own scholars with no respect, that is why you are in the state you are in right now. You need to organize and unite.

  • Ayesha

    Mezaan,It was not the parents who complained as was first reported. It was a former employee of the school, who apparently had a grudge and saw an opportunity to cause some trouble.

  • Nazim

    That was a beautiful poem above.

  • nasamat

    Thank you NAZIMWelcome to my blog above where you can find more poems (and even novels).Mohamed, Morocco

  • nasamat

    Thank you NAZIM

  • Mike Sabi

    What a shame, the fiasco ended so soon – before the US could take ‘freedom and democracy’ and impress the Sudanese with “shock and awe” !!Oh, the Israelis were mouth-watering too!! Another long time hit-list-country!-Mike

  • mm

    JazakAllah Khair Shaykh Hamza for the insights.We would also like to share this article on the issue:

  • Frank Norton

    Dear Editor/Sir;

  • GEORGE, Bay Shore NY

    We American’s have much to learn and must stop the double standards. WE NEED TO HEAR MORE FROM MUSLIMS AND THE LIKE OF HAMZA YUSUF.

  • Phil

    Hamza

  • amir memon

    well said shaykh hamza, jazzakAllah Khair for writing this article.

  • aiysha

    I think this issue all comes down to the misunderstanding of Islam. If only people would learn Islam through its two sources: Quran and Sunnah (prophetic saying/actions) and NOT MEDIA then the mislabeling of Islam wouldn’t happen. If the British teacher took the time to understand the beauty of Islam, she would not have agreed to name a teddy bear under the final, beloved prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) a mercy to mankind. It is common sense, naming a teddy bear under a prophet’s name, whose name is mentioned all around the world! Every single minute in adhan (call to prayer) is absolutely disrespect! Period.

  • Nadeem Gulam

    Assalamualakum,Excellent post. Thanks so much. May Allah swt bless you.Assalamualakum

  • Jtoe

    As a non muslim, how do you learn to seperate the culture from the religion,i.e. the emplied teachings directly from the Quran compared to the Arab, Persian , or even the American culture? By this I mean how do you distinguish what it is to be an Arab or a Persian, or even an American to what it is to be Muslim, and how do these effect you in ” being and doing Muslim”.

  • Phillip

    Obviously she did not intend to insult Islam. Only those who intentionally insult Islam should be put to death. Right?

  • khalood

    From : أنا انسه خلود بكي بكي وليس وليس وأنا أرجوك البريد الكتروني وأن شاء اللة وأنت واحد يا حبيبى

  • khalood

    From : أنا انسه خلود بكي بكي وليس وليس وأنا أرجوك البريد الكتروني وأن شاء اللة وأنت واحد يا حبيبى

  • A Typical Western Infidel/Polytheist

    “So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.”Allow me to suggest that the “deeper reality” that you should have been reflecting on for YEARS is the absolutely intolerant and bloody example of Mohammad, as depicted in the Qu’ran, which inspires more than just the absolutely intolerant and bloody Islamic government of Sudan. As you write, “our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world.” Can you prove that this is NOT how Mohammad would have it? After all, he’s the model human being, a paragon of virtue, whose bloody and intolerant revelations are binding for all time on all Muslims everywhere, right?

  • Ahmed

    Assalamualaikum Bro. Yusuf,This is a nice article and shows some very accurate viewpoints that are regularly sidelined in much of the media. I’d like to give a small correction toward the end of the article when the West was going through its dark medieval era Muslim nations were among, if not the, most advanced civilizations in the world. That was a golden era for Muslims so it would not be applicable to say Muslims are acting medieval, some of them do act ignorantly and that is an unfortunate quality both among Muslims and Westerners that is becoming more and more a part of modern times. I hope that we have learned something from the mistakes of past times so that we will not repeat history again as is being done in the unjust Iraq War.

  • Morry Blumenfeld

    I would like to ask Hamza Yusuf why he thinks that the atrocities in “Palestine” are against the Muslims. Does he not know that in 1948 after the declaration of independence of Israel according to the UN declaration of Nov 27, 1947, five Muslim Arab countries (TransJordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon) invaded the Jewish state and were finally repelled by the Israelis from their territory and that instead of creating the Palestinian state in conformance with the UN declaration TransJordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem (thus becoming Jordan) and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip? Does he not know that while, during the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled from Israel? At the same time some 850,000 Jews fled their homes in Arab countries, arriving as refugees with no possessions but that unlike the Arab countries which kept the Arab refugees in camps to this day, the Jewish refugees were integrated into Israel? Does he not know that during the 1950′s Israel was attacked again and again by “fedayeen” mainly from the Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip, which led to the 1956 war? Does he not recall that in 1967 Egypt, Jordan, and Syria massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea, a causus belli which forced Israel into the pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, during which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights? Does he not know that Israel warned Jordan not to enter into the fight and that because Jordan did enter the fight it lost the West Bank? And does he not know of the three “Noes” issued by eight Arab leaders at the Khartoum Conference in 1967: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel”? Is he unaware of the launching of the 1973 war by Egypt on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar? And is he also unaware of the terrorism at the 1972 Summer Olympics suicide bombers and the cult of death which the two intifada created? And does he really think that it is the Muslim Arab states that keep seeking peace with Israel, or is it the other way around, with Israel even offering to give up the most important Jewish symbol of over 3000 years, the Temple Mount, as was offered at Camp David?

  • david swiatlo

    Mr. Yusuf:A few short comments:1. Ms. Gibbons’ statement was made in Sudan upon her release. Do you really think it reflects her true feelings?2.The fact that Muslims share with Jews a prohibition against making images of living things is irrelevant (as well as inaccurate). Jews don’t kill, or threaten to kill in the name of this putative prohibition.3. By the “Sudanese government’s failure to address Darfur’s problems,” are you referring to that government’s active complicity in the killing and rape of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens?4. It is a sad reflection on the state of Muslim thought to concede that many “Muslim brothers and sisters” would react by referring to the “atrocities” committed by “the West” in places like Kashmir and Palestine. To have you simply parrot these absurd comments as if they were an undiluted truth shows your own limited capacity for clear analysis (or, worse, your cynicism).

  • Mohammed Saeed

    Who said you cannot name a toy or Mohammed? Mr. Hamza Yusuf makes me laugh when I see such an American Crhistian convert to Islam, or whatever his previous religion is, preaches us on our own religion, as I saw him a few times on a popular Arabic channel. Not only that, but he’s fallen prey to the stupid defensive rhetoric of Arab/Islamic politics in modern history which is nothing but pointing fingers at others and belaming them for our own faults, a discourse that lacks the ability to self-criticise.

  • Ibrahim Malk

    Once again Hamza Useless is acting like a moderate coward that is trying to appease his western masters

  • Where myanmar 1040ez is

    is myanmar Where of

  • Where myanmar 1040ez is

    is myanmar Where of

  • Hamza Jakada

    Hi,

  • NEO

    This is the problem with Muslims. Because of Islam, atrocities are committed all over the world. The imprisonment of that teacher is barbaric, the fact that you somehow seek to justify it makes you just as barbaric.Islam is an oppressive religion, as we have seen in the death sentence of the Afghan who left Islam, the riots and murders over a few cartoon, the murder of Van Gough, the death threats against Greet Wilders, the death sentence against Salman Rushdie, the numerous acts of violence against religious minorities in Islamic countries, the sentencing of a rape victim to lashes for allowing herself to be raped, and, of course, the teddy bear incident.In all of these actions, Islam has shown itself as an intolerant, belligerent religion that does not respect any of the basic freedoms and human rights enjoyed by people in civilized societies. The Islamic mentality is stuck in the stone ages and will continue to remain there if so called “moderates” always find excuses for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam and Imams continue to provide justification for these subhuman acts.The very rulings of Islamic Shariah are barbaric, the cutting off of limbs for theft, the stoning for adultery etc are all the signs of a retarded “civilization” that has no place in the modern world. The fact that Islam sanctions the rape of female prisoners of war (Surah 4:24 And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess) and wife beating (Surah 4:34) is also barbaric. In fact, your whole religion is barbaric, misogynist, bigoted and violent.

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