I've been "reading" (actually listening to the audio version of) the book The Enemy at Home by Dinesh D'Souza. It's a rather opinionated book that offers up a view of Western culture and how the Muslim world views it, as a way to explain why America is hated by the Middle East. It's kind of interesting, and the more I read, the more respect I gain for some of the Muslim culture's values. (It's also kind of insulting, because he's so focused on blaming Liberals that he leaves out so much; it's really a specialized form of "Blame America First" -- but that's another rant.)
And then I see stories like this, and respect just flies out the window. The gist is, a British teacher in Sudan asked her class of 7-year-olds to name a teddy bear. One of the kids suggested Muhammad, his own name and the most common given name in the world. The kids voted in favor, and so it was. Well, the Sudanese government decided that by allowing the use of the name Muhammad for an inanimate object, the teacher was "guilty of 'insulting the faith of Muslims in Sudan' under Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code" and sentenced her to 15 days in jail and deportation.
I suppose I should give the Sudanese court a little credit here. The original charge was "inciting religious hatred," which would've gotten her up to 40 lashes, a fine, and six months in prison. I'd like to think that they realized no harm was intended and chose the least possible sentence for the least possible crime.
Still, the fact that this was even an issue (and one that was so severe that lawyers assigned to her defense received death threats) sickens me. Maybe D'Souza would accuse me of ethnocentrism, but this is just ridiculous.
edit: It seems the USA Today link I used keeps changing; it was a report on the sentencing a moment ago (and is what some of my quotes were citing), and now it is a report on the response by the British government (which lacks some of the facts I quoted). I wonder if this Bloomberg.com link will be more stable...
edit 2: I've seen many reports that suggest this whole thing was blown out of proportion, that many Muslims do not support this decision. Good for them. I hope they are the majority, and that the sickos that were calling for the teacher's execution represent a radical minority. (Goodness knows this country has its share of vocal whackos that seem to do their best to try to give the rest of us a bad name.) I still think there is sufficient cause for concern, because at least some of those people who think she needed to be punished had the power to make it happen. What would've happened if the British government didn't hear about her and intervene on her behalf? Would reason have prevailed? What's that saying about knowing a person's true character by what they do when no one is watching?