Last spring, Dilly invited several small children and their mothers to come and play. One little girl was clutching her favourite doll. Someone asked its name. “Jesus” she said. The mother was embarrassed. “Sorry, I know it’s wrong” she said, “but it was a Christmas present and, of course, we’d been talking about Baby Jesus for weeks, and then she had a baby doll given to her and we couldn’t talk her out of it.”
No one thought it was blasphemous, but they agreed that it jarred – and none of those young women is a churchgoer, though they had all been brought up in a broadly Christian tradition, if with little or no religious faith.
I think there’s general agreement that the teacher who agreed to call a teddybear ‘Mohammed’ meant no harm, and neither insult nor blasphemy. But what sort of idiot thought it could be appropriate? She was newly in the country, new to the school – didn’t it occur to her to run it past the headteacher? She’s supposed to be an experienced teacher – I’m not a teacher, but I’ve spent enough time in schools to know the way one should think. So I’d not say “you are bad” but “you have behaved badly” – not “you have failed” but “this is not an acceptable standard”. If it’s not up to scratch, there’s “room for improvement.” And one never uses an absolute about expectations in ways of life, for one always considers the effect on a pupil whose parents may have a lifestyle about which one needs to speak tactfully. Of course, you are constantly aware of people of a different religious or cultural background from yourself, because that is polite as well as sensible and politically correct.
If there were a class teddybear at the village school, I am sure the teacher would think twice before naming it Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Shiva or any other name with a similarly strong religious connotation. And this woman is in a rather unstable Muslim country. I trust that the judiciary will realise that she is stupid (for which, of course, please read the euphemism “naïve”) rather than anything else, and let her go, but when she’s chucked out of the country, she may not find it that easy to get another job. I think she will need to go on a couple of training courses first.