I met Dorje Gurung in 1996 during my second year at an international school in Norway. I was a long way from home -- I grew up in South Africa -- but teachers like Dorje made me feel welcome and part of a global community.
Dorje’s a great guy and a gifted teacher. At the school he often led hiking and kayaking trips and was very involved with student activities. He knew what it is like for someone like me to be in a new country. Dorje grew up in Nepal and like me received a scholarship to go abroad to finish the last two years of high school. After finishing college in Iowa, Dorje decided to give back by teaching at schools like the one he had attended.
Dorje has lived in eight countries and has taught at schools with kids from over 85 nations. That is why I was shocked to hear that Dorje has been jailed in Qatar on charges of “insulting Islam” and faces seven years in prison for what seems to be a misunderstanding.
Two years ago, Dorje took a job teaching at a school in Qatar. According to news reports, Dorje had been recently having problems with students who did not respect his authority, in part due to his nationality.
According to the Doha News:
(T)he seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor.... (T)he 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?
After trying to get the students to reflect on their actions, he was fired from his job and later arrested.
Dorje shouldn’t be in prison for trying to teach his students to be tolerant of people from other countries.
There is growing international attention to his case and we fervently hope that Qatar will uphold their international reputation of being a tolerant and welcoming country.