Teacher appears in Doha court, faces felony charge of insulting Islam

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A Nepalese teacher fired from a prestigious secondary school in Qatar for remarks he made to students last month appeared in a lower Doha court today on charges of insulting Islam.

Dorje Gurung, who taught chemistry at Qatar Academy, was seen by Doha News this morning leaving the court in handcuffs. If convicted, Article 256 of the Penal Code stipulates that he could face up to seven years in jail.

Colleagues, friends and students interviewed by Doha News said Gurung, whose two-year teaching contract was set to expire in July, had been facing problems at QA with students who did not respect his authority, in part due to his nationality.

Two of Gurung’s friends at the courthouse shared with Doha News notes of the teacher’s account of what happened. Here is a summary:

Fateful week

On Monday, April 22, Gurung said he had a sit-down chat with three 12-year-old boys who were making fun of him. Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor.

On Tuesday, April 23, the mocking again began in earnest while Gurung was in line for lunch. At first, he said the teasing was light-hearted, but then one student put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder and a finger in the teacher’s nose. At this point, Gurung grew agitated and said remarks to the effect of, how would you like to be stereotyped i.e. called a terrorist?

On Wednesday, April 24, he had a meeting with school management. On Thursday, April 25, he submitted his account of what happened and was told to go home. On Sunday, April 28, he was fired.

Later that week, Gurung was jailed for his remarks. According to his friends, Gurung will remain there at least until his next court hearing, which will be held in two weeks. He still does not have a lawyer, but the Nepalese embassy previously told Doha News that it will investigate the case.

International attention

Qatar Academy has acknowledged that it let go a teacher after formal complaints were made, but said it would be “inappropriate to comment further,” now that the matter has been picked up authorities.

Meanwhile, the teacher’s case is starting to draw international attention and has sparked a conversation in Doha about racism, accountability, “wasta” and tolerance.

Selywn Price, a longtime friend of Gurung’s who does not live in Qatar, said he and other colleagues are following the story closely:

We are all very concerned about his situation, and feel very powerless to help in any way. At the moment we are attempting to engage a lawyer in Doha to represent him, and offering donations to pay for such representation, but we would very much like to be able to contact him to find out how he is and how best we can help him.

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