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Saturday, December 01, 2007

No Teddy Bear's Picnic

The imprisonment of Gillian Gibbons in a Sudanese jail for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam when she agreed to a child’s naming of teddy bear “Mohammed” is outrageous. Of course everyone has been falling over backwards in UK government this week to appease the Sudanese with weasel words such as “saddened” – “shocked” – “concerned” but all this does is indicate weakness. When the representative of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, no less, called for the expulsion of the Sudanese ambassador and all David Milliband, the Foreign Secretary can do is wait four days before calling him in for a chat; one does wonder what is going on.

Appeasement is never a pretty sight even in ‘Real Politik.’ So why do we want to keep the Sudanese sweet? Well, for the same reasons I suspect that we have dithered and made feeble gestures whilst Sudanese militia have murdered and raped their way through Darfur; for the same reason that the crucifixion of Christians and the execution of animists in Southern Sudan has barely raised an eyebrow in Whitehall … in a word, Pakistan.

“Pardon me,” you say, “Pakistan?!” For some unaccountable reason Pakistan and Sudan have made common cause with each other … and we don’t want to upset the applecart in Pakistan do we? More appeasement. Meanwhile the innocent Gillian Gibbons languishes in house arrest somewhere well away from the baying barbaric mob who are roaming the streets of Khartoum calling for her execution. Apparently it’s all a western inspired Christian anti-Islamic plot! Is that really the best we can do? Teddy bear terrorism?

Of course what should have happened was the immediate expulsion of diplomatic staff and the termination of all trading arrangements. Not doing this on the basis that it would antagonise the Sudanese and put Gillian in further peril of flogging was an extremely foolish reaction. Consider the propaganda gift to the Sudanese government … “look how merciful we are, we could have flogged her.” This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Only an administration whose first priority was to defend the western alliance with Pakistan would have been prepared to pay such a price, or of course one that lacked balls.

So is this how we keep the Taliban at bay … by allowing their equivalents space to terrorise with their fanatical barbarism elsewhere whether in Saudi Arabia, Sudan or Malaysia and protect their governments who can’t control their own mobs or hate preaching clerics? We can barely do that ourselves so what chance have we to insist on rational and humane treatment of our citizens abroad? This has been a bad week for freedom and justice and the UK government is deeply implicated in its calculating cowardice. A line has to be drawn.

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