British Muslims protested outside the Sudanese Embassy over the treatment of jailed teacher Gillian Gibbons. The small but noisy group demanded the immediate release of Mrs Gibbons, who is currently serving a 15-day prison sentence in Sudan after her class of seven-year-olds named a teddy bear Mohammed.
Chanting “free, free Gillian” and “let her go, let her go”, demonstrators attempted to hand over a “goodwill teddy” to the embassy, but a staff member refused to accept the gift.
Some 20 British Muslims, including MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan and chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission Massoud Shadjareh, gathered outside the Sudanese embassy in Piccadilly. Leaders of the protest said they wanted to show that British Muslims supported Mrs Gibbons. Some arrived with their own teddy bears.
At the London demonstration, Catherine Heseltine, a 28-year teacher and member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, condemned the action of hard-line Islamists. She said: “They are dragging the name of Islam through the mud. The overwhelming feeling in the Muslim community in the UK is that it is really sad the way Gillian Gibbons has been treated. I haven’t met a single British Muslim who has taken the naming of the teddy to be an insult.”
Mr Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: “I find it offensive that Islam is being used in this way by the Sudanese government and the media. It is totally unacceptable by the Sudanese government and the press are trying to make this into another cartoon or a Salmon Rushdie issue.”