Other than among Islamic hardliners, you would think that the plight of British teacher Gillian Gibbons, who faces jail and 40 lashes in Sudan for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammed, would elicit near-universal sympathy.
Not so, judging by the comments of a sizable minority of commenters on the BBC's website, who appear to think that Mrs Gibbons deserves everything she gets. This is just a selection of their views ... :
... We always preach that when foreigners come to Britain they need to do their homework, learn our culture and abide by our laws. ...
... If we expect people living or working in the UK to abide by our laws, British citizens working abroad should be expected to abide by the laws of the country they work in. ...
... When working in a particular country it is imperative that you comply with and respect the rules of that country. This lady clearly did not comply and respect such rules and must suffer the consequences. ...
... Why do we think that anyone coming to the UK must abide by our rules and regulations, but that the same does not apply to us when we are abroad? ...
The notion that "we expect them to abide by our laws, so we should abide by theirs" is worryingly prevalent, and an example of how the doctrines of multiculturalism and moral equivalence have corrupted the minds of many in the West. Of course we expect foreign visitors to comply with our laws - but our laws don't decree that a person should be flogged for giving the wrong name to a cuddly toy.
Actually, I don't agree with Mike here. It's true: not that you should necessarily respect the laws of the country you're in, but that you can expect to face the consequences if you break them. It's true that laws in the Sudan are absurd, that their "justice" is a joke, and that the country is generally just plain run by bastards, but the sad fact remains that it isn't a colony of Britain and so British subjects don't have special rights there. If you visit the place, you have to obey its stupid laws and live by its nasty small-minded barbaric mediaeval mores. More fool you for going to the hellhole in the first place, Mrs Gibbons.
But there's a flip-side to that. Just as the Sudanese have no duty to give special consideration to visiting British infidels, so the British state has no duty to mollycoddle the Sudanese. Our government supposedly disapproves of theirs, after all — or so it claims from time to time. I understand that a certain amount of pussyfooting around was necessary while Gibbons was still in jail over there, but she's out and home now. So broadcast a warning to all Britons in Sudan to get out of the country ASAP, expel their ambassador from London, and cut down on that money we keep giving them — most of it's to aid the Sudanese victims of the Sudanese government, but we could at least reduce those portions that help the ruling class.
It's not a matter of punishing them. It's certainly not a matter of infringing their sovereignty. It's a simple matter of asserting our values. "Yes," we should be saying to them, "you have every right to punish Britons in your country under your laws. And we have every right to choose who to give our money to and what kind of people to invite to our state functions. We're not going to pretend you're civilised when you're not. You're just not our kind of people. Oh, and have this DVD of the 2007 British Comedy Awards as a parting gift. Bye."
Anything but this crap:
The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said:
... 'I want to pay tribute to the work of Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi whose welcome initiative has been important in securing this outcome. They, and the Muslim community in the UK, have shared our view that this was always an innocent misunderstanding.'
Whether this was an innocent misunderstanding has absolutely nothing to do with it. Because what if it hadn't been? What if she had wanted to insult or criticise the genocidal religious totalitarians who run the Sudan?
My nation has no spine. And, rather unfortunately, everyone knows it.