So Gillian Gibbons, the Teddy Bear Teacher, was released by Sudanese authorities today. You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Whitehall. Thank God (or whomever) England won’t actually have to do anything! Not, mind you, that they would have done anything, except whine. Query: Was this a victory for civilization? Certainly, it could have been so much worse. But my rapture (like Yum Yum’s in the Mikado) was distinctly modified by the terms of the release. Ms. Gibbons “was pardoned after an appeal by two prominent British Muslims to Sudan’s president for her early release.”
Pardoned? Pardoned for what? The relevant sense of “pardon” means to forgive or excuse a wrongdoing. But Ms. Gibbons, in allowing her students to name a Teddy bear Mohammad, did no wrong. If there is any pardoning to be done in this case, it should have to come from Ms. Gibbons, who might (or, then again, she might not) wish to pardon the people who wrongly arrested and imprisoned her. Instead, she apologized: “I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone. I am sorry if I caused any distress.”
Let’s see if I have this straight: You go to some godforsaken place and, for derisory pay, endeavor to help the local children; the response? Thousands of indigenous fanatics take to the streets demanding your head because you were nice to the tots. Does that merit an apology? I say it merits a contemptuous rebuke.