I have just returned from Khartoum, where I won the release of a British schoolteacher convicted of insulting Islam via a teddy bear. Gillian Gibbons allowed her class to name the stuffed animal Muhammad, which also happens to be the name of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Many were enraged by this perceived affront. Demonstrators took to the streets to call for the teacher's execution, and prosecutors pressed charges that could have brought Ms. Gibbons 40 lashes and substantial prison time.
But those who sought to punish Ms. Gibbons have not studied Islam as I have. For nowhere in the Quran does it forbid one from using the name Muhammad. In fact, it is a popular male name in Sudan. So I appealed to Sudan's president to pardon the teacher. "Do it for the children," I implored. "Do it for my Nobel Peace Prize hopes." And he complied, on the condition that I give him my autograph. So I return with an ink-stained paw to teach you the proper handling of this case. The teacher, as I have indicated, is innocent of all charges. But there is one who is deserving of the 40 lashes: the teddy bear. Again, this has nothing to do with it being named Muhammad. That is simply the proper way to deal with a chew toy. And as we all know, a teddy bear is just a chew toy that hasn't yet found its way to a canine's eager teeth.