Teacher Hidden As Sudan Mob Urges Death
Friday, November 30, 2007; 5:06 PM
KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums, burned pictures of a British teacher Friday and demanded her execution for insulting Islam by letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammad.
Sudan's Islamic government, which has long whipped up anti-Western, Muslim hard-line sentiment at home, was balancing between fueling outrage over the case of Gillian Gibbons and containing it.
The government does not want to seriously damage ties with Britain, but the show of anger underlines its stance that Sudanese oppose Western interference, lawyers and political foes said. The uproar comes as the U.N. is accusing Sudan of dragging its feet on the deployment of peacekeepers in the war-torn Darfur region.
Many in the protesting crowd shouted "Kill her! Kill her by firing squad!"
In response to the rally in central Khartoum, Gibbons was moved from the women's prison across the Nile in Oumdurman to a secret location, her chief lawyer Kamal al-Gizouli told the Associated Press. He said he visited her there to discuss her conviction Thursday on charges of insulting Islam.
The 54-year-old Gibbons, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail, spoke Friday with her son John and daughter Jessica in Britain by telephone.
"One of the things my mum said today was that I don't want any resentment towards Muslims," the son told AP. "She's holding up quite well."
Despite the fervor of the protest, the rest of Khartoum was quiet. The rally was far smaller than February 2006 protests held with government backing after European newspapers ran caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, suggesting popular anger over Gibbons did not run as deep.
In their mosque sermons Friday, several Muslim clerics harshly denounced Gibbons, saying she had intentionally insulted the prophet, but they not call for protests and said the punishment ordered by the court was sufficient.
Still, after prayers, several thousand people converged on Khartoum's Martyrs Square, near the presidential palace, and began calling for Gibbons' execution. Many seemed to be from Sufi groups, religious sects that emphasize reverence for the prophet.
Some angrily denounced the teacher, but others smiled as they beat drums and burned newspapers with Gibbons' picture, waving swords and clubs and green banners, the color of Islam.
Chants of "Kill her!" and "No tolerance: Execution!" rang out as hundreds of police in riot gear stood by, keeping the crowd contained but not moving against the rally.