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Friday, December 14, 2007

Engaging with Sudan

Just one more teeny, weeny post on Teddy Mo.

Howard Jacobson wrote about Gillian Gibbons in last Saturday's Indie. Round here we worship the ground under Mr Jacobson's feet. And I can certainly concur with him that Ms Gibbons seems irritatingly naive, though to be fair I suspect that people possessing the kind of worldly wisdom which he finds wanting in her generally don't become primary school teachers.

What's bothering me is the attitude encapsulated here:-

'It is foolhardy in general to be unaware that a foreign country is a foreign country: that they do things differently there. And it is foolhardy in particular not to know that Islamic countries are in ferment at the moment – Sudan more than most – and that, as an English person not least, you run the risk of getting yourself into trouble whatever you say. Myself, I have difficulty understanding why, just for the fun of it, any Westerner would venture into that part of the world right now.'

This seems to me to come close to saying that anyone blessed with the faculty of premeditation would simply steer clear of Sudan. And that has to be wrong.

HJ is a friend of Engage. He was on the platform at their anti-boycott bash in London earlier this year. Good on him. And I'd like to put it to him that if there's one people who need the rest of the world's engagement, it's surely the Sudanese. A large minority, of course, are not Muslim (Ms Gibbons' school was a Christian foundation), and the Muslims are not all Islamist fanatics. Precious few of them had any hand in choosing the government (which richly deserves all the boycotts anyone cares to throw at it).

Getting down to specifics, if nothing else Ms Gibbons has left a class of children who may, sooner or later, ask themselves some questions about the way their teacher was treated.

So please think again, Mr Jacobson - you wouldn't want to be inconsistent, would you?

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