The Crescent Report

December 3, 2007

UK Teacher to Be Released

Filed under: Extremism — Tags: — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 1:45 pm

A bit of good news

UK teacher Gillian Gibbons is to be released from prison in Sudan after she was jailed for allowing children in her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Mrs Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was jailed for 15 days on 29 November.

Sudan‘s President Omar al-Bashir pardoned her after a meeting with two British Muslim peers.

 

In a statement, Mrs Gibbons said: “I am sorry if I caused any distress”. UK prime minister Gordon Brown said he was “delighted and relieved” at the news.

 

Mrs Gibbons is expected to be released into the care of the British embassy in Khartoum later on Monday and flown back to the UK.

 

Mrs Gibbons was jailed after allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad. She was arrested after another member of staff at UnityHigh School complained to the Ministry of Education.

 

In a statement read out by Baroness Warsi, Mrs Gibbons said: “I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone and I am sorry if I caused any distress.

 

“I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends but I am very sorry that I will be unable to return to Sudan and work in UnityHigh School as the teacher of 2X.”

 

Lord Ahmed thanked the president for granting the pardon and said both he and Baroness Warsi were proud to have been able to help Mrs Gibbons.

 

“This is a case which is unfortunate, unintentional, innocent misunderstanding, and as British Muslim Parliamentarians we, Baroness Warsi and myself, we feel proud that we’ve been able to secure Gillian Gibbon’s release.”

 

Efforts applauded

 

Mr Brown said it was “completely wrong” that she had been detained, and described her imprisonment as “completely unacceptable”.

 

He said: “Through the course of Mrs Gibbons’ detention I was glad to see Muslim groups across the UK express strong support for her case.

 

“I applaud the particular efforts of Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi in securing her freedom. I am also grateful to our officials for all their work behind the scenes.”

 

Speaking to reporters outside his home in Liverpool, Mrs Gibbons’ son John said he was “very pleased”.

 

He said: “I’d like to thank the government for all they have done, the hard work behind the scenes, especially the two peers who went out there.

 

“Everyone’s been really great. Obviously it’s a great feeling today, we’re very pleased, we have been under a lot of pressure.”

 

He said his mother would be “very pleased although quite embarrassed to be on the news permanently”.

 

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he welcomed President al-Bashir’s intervention.

 

“I want to pay tribute to the work of Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi, whose welcome initiative has been important in securing this outcome,” he said.

 

“They, and the Muslim community in the UK, have shared our view that this was always an innocent misunderstanding.”

 

Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain, told BBC News 24 that the whole saga was very damaging for the image of the Muslim faith.

 

“Each time we have stories like these, that distort what Islam stands for or misrepresents what the compassion of Muslim law stands for.

 

“Then we have repercussions and people begin to feel that Islam has no place in modern society, whereas we believe that Islam is for all time to come.

 

“I have not come across one single Muslim in our country who has supported what has happened.”

 

President Omar al-Bashir had been under pressure from Sudanese hardliners to ensure Mrs Gibbons served her full sentence.

 

There had even been calls for a retrial and for the sentence to be increased.

Mrs Gibbons had been held in a secret location due to fears for her safety.

 

She was arrested after a member of staff at Unity High School complained to the Ministry of Education.

 

Crowds of protesters had marched in the capital Khartoum demanding a tougher sentence for her alleged crime of blasphemy. Some called for her to be executed by firing squad.

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