The case of the Sudanese teddy bear

Alexander Pope satirised the enmity between families caused by a suitor’s removal of a lock of a woman’s hair without permission, in Rape of the Lock, by comparing it to the rape of Helen of Troy and the untold misbehaviour of the Gods. The ‘storm in a teacup’ that underpins such satire comes to mind over the teddy bear in the Sudan imbroglio. It would be hard to imagine a less offensive act to Islam than the naming of the said toy, Mohammed. From what I have read there is nothing in the verses of the Qur’an which prohibits such naming. It is inconceivable that Mohammed, himself, demanded that his name should not be taken in vain, such was his apparent humility! Just as with the Christian bible, much such proscription may have been added later by zealous scholars. It all goes to show how easy it is today to globalise hate, ignorance and religious fanaticism , no matter how trivial the cause. People everywhere can interpret a religious tract how they will, whether they be Christian, Muslim or Jonestown-style fundamentalists. If they have any charismatic power they can gather around them the vulnerable and the susceptible and turn them into a rabid mob.

The soft toy we call ‘teddy bear’ came into existence as a western companion to childhood innocence when Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a helpless bear. From 1902 onwards, the toy was sold in shops. At the end of the 20th century it suddenly asserted itself as a symbol of masochism. Elvis wanted to be one, with a chain around his neck. Maybe the Sudanese Muslims should have left Gillian alone in her innocent ignorance and put the bear to trial. Pope would have been pleased.

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