Talk to the Teddy Bear

There’s a very useful technique used by some IT support departments, called “Talk to the Teddy Bear,” whereby a computer user explains his or her problem to a soft toy provided for the purpose, before bothering an actual techie with it. Very often, the solution to the problem will be discovered in the act of explaining it, and the IT support troops will not be required.

Perhaps, before adding their voices to the knee-jerk anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been provoked by the fundamentalist fireworks in Khartoum, some of the outraged commentators should undertake just such an exercise and interrogate Mohammed the Bear to discover the root cause of the problem.

Outraged of Islington: Talk about biting the hand that feeds! A country that treats foreign workers this way doesn’t deserve to receive foreign aid. We should withdraw all aid from them immediately!

Mohammed the Bear: Foreign aid?

O of I: Well, we have been trying to give them humanitarian and resource aid to help with the refugees from the recent floods and the conflict in Darfur…

Mo: Trying?

O of I: The government doesn’t seem to want our help actually – it’s been refusing the UN force entry, and making access and transport difficult for aid workers. So I say we just leave them to it!

Mo: The government doesn’t want foreign aid?

O of I: Well, it has been accused of sponsoring the Arab militias that are responsible for the alleged ethnic cleansing of black Africans in the Darfur region – I guess they might not want too much international scrutiny of their role there…

Mo: So to rid itself of interfering foreign do-gooders…?

O of I: …A crisis is whipped up on a spurious religious pretext guaranteed to ignite passions and damage international relations….ah, I see where you’re going with this…

The problem is that by joining the outcry against backward Islamists imposing nonsensical Sharia laws on our harmless schoolteachers, we are playing directly into the hands of an authoritarian regime protecting its own interests.

Inciting anti-Muslim outcry is a divisive Islamist tactic to demonstrate to the moderate majority that Islam is under attack by Western values, so that the beleaguered devotees feel that they must support the political Islamist movement in order to protect their culture and religion.

Feeding a fundamentalist frenzy among a small minority of followers both reinforces the Sudanese government’s power base as arbiter of religious law in its country, and extends its international appeal to Muslims worldwide, as the resulting condemnation is interpreted as religious (rather than political) criticism.

But more importantly, by causing ‘the hand that feeds’ to draw back, the Sudanese government is ensuring that it can continue to pursue its political and religious agendas without interference from foreign busybodies. Oil revenues have made Sudan a wealthy nation, but while Khartoum booms, Darfur burns. Sudan’s government and wealthy elites have no need of foreign aid, but four million traumatised, brutalised, orphaned and abandoned people depend on it – let us not abandon them because of a contrived furore over a teddy bear.