A New Insult: Muhammad The Goldfish

teddy.jpgI read a funny story in this week’s Sunday Times. Police in the Italian city of Bolzano have seized a toilet from a local gallery. It’s not an ordinary toilet in that, when in use, it plays the Italian national anthem. Apparently, in Italy it is an offence to ridicule the anthem and the gallery’s owners may well find themselves prosecuted.

To me, this is absurdist lunacy masquerading as national pride. If I were an Italian, the strains of my anthem (often so delightfully conducted by Michael Schumacher after a Formula One victory with Ferrari) would make my bosom swell with pride whenever and wherever I’d hear it. I wouldn’t be particular, either, about the way it was played: full symphony orchestra, brass band, paper and comb, Inuit noseflute or Italian cistern. Conclusion: the Bolzano authorities are nuts. An anthem is an anthem. Once, on a holiday in Scotland, I saw the Dutch flag hanging upside down from an official building. Do you think I went in and angrily demanded that this deep insult to the Dutch nation should be undone immediately and those responsible punished? Of course not. Silly Scots, I thought and left it at that.

This eagerness to perceive offence or insult is one of Man’s least endearing qualities. I was pretty aghast -though not surprised-, therefore, that British teacher Gillian Gibbons became the butt of Sudanese zealots’ righteous fury merely for allowing a child in her class to give a teddy bear the name Muhammad. As soon as the news came out (or rather, as soon as someone squealed on her) poor Gillian was arrested and prosecuted for insulting the prophet. By now, she’s been pardoned by the Sudanese president and returned home, but that doesn’t alter the fact that hordes of Islamic fanatics had earlier taken to the streets of Khartoum, demanding her execution. Hers, by the way, not that of the kid who did the naming or of the teddy bear itself. How far up the wrong tree can you bark?

And there’s something else. I don’t know how many Muhammads are listed in the Khartoum phonebook (nearly as many as in that of Amsterdam, perhaps), but there must be a good few. Indeed, phonebooks throughout the Arab world and Europe probably list page after page after page of Muhammads. Did anyone, the Sudanese police for instance, bother to find out whether it was actually Muhammad the prophet that the teddy was named after and not Muhammad the halva dealer, Muhammad the bicycle repairman or Muhammad the chartered accountant? Also, did no one realize that the teddy bear is the object of love and affection all over the western world and that naming one Muhammad is, far fom being an insult, as close to a compliment the prophet is likely to get outside the thin-skinned realm of Islam? Love your teddy, love Muhammad; that’s how simple it could have been.

The pardon, that’s another thing. It took the personal intervention of two high-ranking British Muslims to get the Sudanese president to order Gillian Gibbons’ release. Not that Omar Hasan Ahmed al-Bashir had become convinced of her innocence. As the one who imposed Sharia law on his country he was unlikely to do that. Had Britain not been an important investor in Sudan -and had there not been strong voices in the UK calling for divestment over the crisis in Darfur- Omar al-Bashir might well have cocked a snook at the West and kept her in jail, or even executed her. As it was he did the minimum required: a pardon. The crime stood, the insult to the prophet stood, her punishment was deserved, but the Sudanese president, known for his generosity of spirit, was willing to relent.

This idiocy must stop. We cannot have people arrested, incarcerated or worse who have not done the slightest wrong, who dedicate themselves to the betterment of complete strangers in a foreign land. I am therefore calling on people all over the world to challenge the zealots and name their teddy bears Muhammad. They can’t kill us all so sooner or later they’ll have to either pipe down and relax or else die of apoplexy. Oh and while you’re at it, re-christen not only your teddy bears, but also your cats, dogs, hamsters, parakeets and goldfish. I won’t rest until each and every pet and furry toy on the planet is called Muhammad. Or, for that matter, Jesus. Or Buddha. Or Jehova. As I said, I’m not particular.



2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] A New Insult: Muhammad The GoldfishBy 1alberich1Police in the Italian city of Bolzano have seized a toilet from a local gallery. It’s not an ordinary toilet in that, when in use, it plays the Italian national anthem. Apparently, in Italy it is an offence to ridicule the anthem and …Greene’s Insite – https://insite2out.wordpress.com […]

  2. 2

    Kish hahn said,

    Excellent blog Robet!You have exposed their incredile comical lethal idiocy.
    Kish Hahn

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