The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) has issued its condemnation after the attack on Durban based writer, Zainub Priya Dala, reportedly in response to her praise of controversial novelist, Salman Rushdie. Dala, who is expected to release her first book this week, was run off the road and held at knife point on Wednesday, a day after making remarks in which she expressed her admiration for Rushie’s writing style.
Samnet chairperson, Dr Faisal Suliman, said there could be no justification for the attack, but stressed that whilst media indications were that the perpetrators were of a Muslim background, there was no actually proof of this.
“She has not given any description that would mark these assailants as Muslims. Notwithstanding that and notwithstanding that we would have serious disagreements with Salman Rushdie on his workings on Islam and the Prophet (PBUH), there is no possible reason to have attacked this woman,” he stated.
Dala’s debut novel, What About Meera, was published in March by Umuzi. She was of the featured writers at the Time of the Writer Festival taking place in Durban from 16 to 21 March, before the incident took place. Steve Connolly, managing director of Penguin Random House in South Africa, also expressed anger at Dala’s attack.
“Her crime? To have expressed her admiration for the writing of Salman Rushdie, which heralded a walk-out by teachers and students. Have we reached such a state of intolerance that we cannot listen to one writer profess admiration for another without wanting to attack her with a brick and a knife? If our constitution is to mean anything we must ensure our right to free speech.”
Much of the controversy surrounding Rushdie has been on his controversial 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which led to global protests as well as a fatwa issued for the author’s death. Irrespective of the contentious nature of his works, Suliman said there was no evidence in Islamic history of the Prophet (PBUH) using any aggressive means against those critical of him.
“We should be having an intellectual debate, and looking at providing examples from the life of the Prophet and the Quran to all of these intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals who want to pick on Islam, and challenge them with rationality, logic, science, and debate,” he said, urging people to accept that there would be those who would have differences of opinion in this regard.
Suliman said the incident also brought about double standards within mainstream media, with no clear indication that the assailants were Muslim.
“That is entire debate on its own, and it is reflective of the double standards within the media. It still does not detract from the fact that whoever attacked this woman, had no basis for it,” he stressed.
He further urged the community to rise to the level of challenging the critique of Islam ‘like for like’, on an equal intellectual basis using the evidence provided in the Quraan and Sirah. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)