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A South African novelist has been subjected to harassment and violently assaulted for expressing an opinion of Salmon Rushdie’s work. Zainub Priya Dala, a psychologist and a physiotherapist specialising in autism, recently published her first novel, What About Meera.
While speaking at a school literary event in March, Dala expressed admiration for Rushdie’s work. The following day she was threatened by three men in a parking lot. The assailants placed a knife to her throat and hit her in the face with a brick, calling her “Rushdie’s bitch.” The attack ended when a minibus entered the lot. Dala said she believes she would have been stabbed had the attack not been interrupted.
Dala reported that she has come under pressure from some of Durban’s religious leaders to renounce her statements on Rushdie and his work. She has been told to say the prayers and seek forgiveness.
Diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, Dala is currently being treated at a hospital, where she went reluctantly and where she is being held against her wishes. Index is pleased to hear that she has now been discharged from the facility.
Index calls on South Africa’s government to protect the right of individuals to freedom of expression guaranteed by the country’s constitution. Further, South Africa must provide protection for Dala.
“South Africa is a modern democracy that has publicly committed to upholding the values of free expression and the rights these values afford individuals,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “It is incumbent on South Africa to show it believes and supports these principles by supporting Zainub Dala and by taking action against those who would silence her.”