PJ Media

The Teddy Bear that Embarrassed Sudan

I’ve been deeply upset ever since this teddy bear circus erupted. A few days ago, I was out with a bunch of friends trying my best to get my face unglued from my computer screen. As we were walking in laughter, we passed by a shop displaying a set of teddy bears, and for the first time the triggered emotion was a starkly different one.

If anything, the whole spectacle further proves something to me as a Sudanese Muslim: our false pride and misplaced sense of honor.

Those we watched angrily protesting love to highlight the supposed immorality of the West – the bars, bare women and “corrupting” freedoms. We pride ourselves on living in a country that is supposedly more moral and therefore automatically better. It’s a false pride, one propagated and encouraged by the propaganda of Sudanese Islamists.

Certainly we have a lot to be proud of as a people with a rich history and culture. The Nubian Civilization, hailed by many experts as one of the greatest that ever existed, is but only one aspect of that. True Sudanese values of generosity and hospitality – ones slowly but surely withering away as oppression tears us – are trademarks we’re well known for. There is, however, nothing for us to be proud of as citizens of a country ruled by a gang of morally bankrupt butchers.

We are a country earning billions of dollars in oil exports, yet we rely on Western aid so millions of our own can survive when we can clearly afford to support them! Where’s the pride in that?

The day when basic human rights start to be respected is a day I might actually have some pride in being a Sudanese citizen. I guess it isn’t enough of an accomplishment for some in my country that we hosted one of the most beloved people in recent times – Osama Bin Laden. You may praise and thank the Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi for that.

It’s al-Turabi, after his rise to power, who is mainly responsible for the spread and exponential growth of radicalism in Sudan. Thanks to him, it also looks like our sense of honor has been greatly misplaced.

It amazes me how some of us can get so upset over a teddy bear whose name was democratically chosen by a bunch of seven-year-olds but feel no anger at the mass atrocities which took place in Darfur over the last four years. Honoring the countless Darfurian lives lost apparently isn’t important.

Brainwashed by self-interested religious clerics into believing that Ms Gibbons’ act was in fact part of a bigger Western plot against Islam, thousands of angry protesters marched the streets of Khartoum apparently to protect the honor of the Prophet. Where were they all this time when Darfur was burning? Where were they when Mohammed Atta flew into the World Trade Center? No, wait, sorry. That particular Mohammed was not a teddy bear.

200,000 dead, no problem. A teddy bear gets named Muhammad, all hell breaks loose.

The teddy bear extravaganza also succeeded in making Islam look utterly ridiculous again. Let us not forget though that Islam is as monolithic as we Muslims ourselves are – hardly at all. Many Muslims rely on reason and their own conscience rather than blindly following religious clerics.

The lunatics we saw protesting – and those who mobilized them – are a symptom of a dangerous global cancer. It must be staunchly challenged. If it isn’t, episodes like this one will become increasingly common not just in Sudan, but everywhere else in the world.

As a Sudanese, I am embarrassed by what took place over the previous few days. The majority of Sudanese are. I’d like to offer a heartfelt apology to Ms Gibbons and her family for the ugly ordeal she was put through. I’m glad she’s reunited with her loved ones, and I wish her nothing but the best of luck.

As for me, an ugly association has forever been ingrained into my mind. A teddy bear shall make me smile no more.

Drima is a freedom-loving, Afro-Arab Sudanese Muslim. When he’s not busy studying or pursuing other endeavors, he makes his own music and blogs at The Sudanese Thinker.