Teaching in the U.S. has plenty of potential drawbacks—generally mediocre pay, long hours of grading and lesson planning, a lack of professional respect. But for the most part, one thing U.S. teachers do have is some certainty they won’t get a jail sentence for verbally clashing with students.
A Nepali chemistry teacher working in Qatar, however, is now in jail for allegedly making comments to students that insulted Islam. According to Doha News, Dorje Gurung, who has also taught in the U.S., Hong Kong, Britain, and Australia, was fired from the private Qatar Academy shortly after having an argument with a few 12-year-old students. Several sources said he was accused of stating that “all Muslims are terrorists.” But two of Gurung’s friends gave Doha News a different account, saying that the students had been making fun of his appearance and calling him “Jackie Chan.”
According to the article, the episode took place while Gurung and the students were in line for lunch on April 23:
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?
Five days later, Gurung was fired. And a few days after that he was put in jail, where he faces up to seven years. Doha News reports that he still does not have a lawyer. The Nepalese embassy has said it will investigate the case.
The Washington Post picked up on the story as well. A former schoolmate of Gurung’s told the paper, “He is a kind, gentle person who loves nothing more than teaching chemistry to students and getting them excited about science.” Supporters of Gurung have also created a Facebook page and a Change.org petition calling for his release.
We’ll keep an eye on where this story goes. In the meantime, take a look at Gurung’s science blog to learn more about him (and for some classroom ideas).
UPDATE 5/13: Doha News reported last night that Gurung has been released from jail and “has apparently been given assurances that the charges against him will be dropped.” He is expected to leave Qatar soon, as he had intended to do before he was jailed. Gurung has not been reached for comment.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.