Gillian Gibbons is back home, safe in Britain. Rachid Dahiye Zakaria is still trapped in a dangerous refugee camp in Chad.
Gibbons, 54, is the teacher who made the mistake of allowing her pupils in Sudan to name a teddy bear Mohammad. The 7-year-old students obviously didn't have a problem with the name. Neither did any of their parents, none of whom complained.
Repeating a process that Islamic clerics and Islamist governments have employed to great effect with cartoons, books and movies, however, authorities in Khartoum used the great teddy bear incident to gin up outrage at an alleged Western plot to demean Islam.
Gibbons had been sentenced in November to 15 days in prison, avoiding a much harsher potential sentence for blasphemy of six months and 40 lashes. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside her prison not to plead for her release, but instead to demand her execution.
Following the intervention of two Muslim members of the British House of Lords, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir issued a pardon. By the first week of December, Gibbons was issuing a plea for privacy from a hotel in her hometown of Liverpool.
Zakaria is 12. His mistake is to be a member of the Massalit tribe, one of the ethnically African, religiously Muslim groups targeted for annihilation by the Sudanese government. Janjaweed militia attacked his village in Sudan's Darfur region. According to an Associated Press account, the armed men threw him into a fire and left him to die.
Zakaria survived. Badly disfigured, he walked for days to reach a refugee camp in neighboring Chad and his sole surviving relatives a grandmother and a sister. He's been waiting there for months as an international charity, Children of Fire, has struggled to bring him to South Africa for a series of painful operations to repair his small body so that he can perform basic tasks.
Which is the greater outrage the blasphemy of children innocently naming a stuffed animal, or the blasphemy of adults burning, raping and murdering children? And which is the greater evil the intolerant shouts for murder for any perceived offense against Islam or the silence that has accompanied the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of its followers?
Whenever one of these contrived grievances comes along, Muslim defense groups, the 22-member Arab League and the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference spring into action to condemn the assault on Islam. Last year, the OIC went so far as to establish an Observatory of Islamophobia to address a "consistent pattern and continuity of sacrilege and blasphemy."
Which sacrilege? The documented burning of Korans, along with people, in Darfur? No. The OIC, along with the Arab League, has led the international defense of Omar al-Bashir's genocidal regime. The toughest statement it has meted out over four years in which 2.5 million black Muslims have been driven from their homes and into barren refugee camps is a call for strict compliance with a cease-fire agreement.
Now al-Bashir is poised to score his biggest diplomatic coup. Security Council Resolution 1769, which the U.S., Britain and France worked diligently to pass last summer, authorized the deployment of 26,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur by year's end. Yet through a combination of bureaucratic obstruction and outright deceit, al-Bashir has stymied deployment of the troops and the equipment necessary to protect Darfur civilians.
The violence, meanwhile, continues, not only directed at children like Zakaria, but also at humanitarian aid groups trying to help them. As the New Year approaches without implementation of Resolution 1769, the plight of the people of Darfur stands to slip even further from international consciousness.
The West could do much more to save lives in Darfur, for instance, by putting as great a value on the life and health of Rachid Dahiye Zakaria as it does on the well being of Gillian Gibbons. The leading institutions of the Muslim world could do no less.