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British teacher lets students name teddy bear "Muhammad"

KHARTOUM, Sudan - A British teacher went on trial today on charges of inciting religious hatred by letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammad at Khartoum's Unity High School yesterday, a crime that is punishable for up to 40 lashes and six months in jail. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

Naming an animal Muhammad is insulting by many Muslims, regardless the commonality of the name used among Muslim men.

In a statement read to the court, Gibbons said her students picked out the teddy bear's name, British Embassy spokesman Omar Daair told The Associated Press. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

The case posed a diplomatic dispute with Sudan's former colonial ruler, Britain.

Prosecutor-General Salah Eddin Abu Zaid told the Associated Press that the British teacher could expect a "swift and fair trial." If convicted, she would face up to 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine, with the verdict and any sentence up to the judge's discretion, official have said. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

The judge ordered the prosecution to bring forward the person who originally raised the complaint against Gibbons, whom was an office assistant at the Unity High School, said Isam Abu Hasabu, the head of the school's parent-teacher association, who was in the courtroom. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

Djizouri, Gibbon's lawyer, said he would argue her case based on Islamic Sharia law and show there was "absolutely no intention to insult religion, and for blasphemy to take place there must be an insult."http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

Gibbons asked the students to pick names for the teddy bear and they proposed Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad. In September, the pupils voted for the name Muhammad. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

Episcopalian Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, Gibbons' employer, was expected to testify for the defense.http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html
He said people are trying to make it a bigger deal then what it really is. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312895,00.html

The charges against Gibbons arrest on Sunday have angered the British government, both British and American Muslim groups have criticized this decision. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

In London, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said British diplomats "will do everything to avoid" any of the possible sentences that could be imposed on the teacher. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

"There is an innocent misunderstanding at the heart of this, not a criminal offense," Miliband said. http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1580323.html

A spokesman at the Sudanese Embassy in London said he did not think Gibbons would be convicted.