The morning after an event in which she expressed admiration for Salman Rushdie’s literary style, Dala was attacked, hit in the face with a brick, and called “Rushdie’s bitch”.
Because of the injuries and trauma she suffered, Dala was forced to postpone the launch of her debut novel, What About Meera.
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The natural state of man, that is human beings, is Freedom. Given the history of the world, all the policy instruments to safeguard, protect and promote freedom of thought and expression, by governments and multilateral organisations, media houses and religious formations, it is appalling, in the crudest and most tragic of extremes, that a fellow writer, an artist, suffered such violence and curtailing of her God-, Allah-, given liberties. The attack on ZP Dala points to concerning tendencies in our world, our nation: those of expressing dissent through intimidation and violence. It would be unfair and shortsighted to limit triggers to religion or ideological grounds – for that would be neglecting the terrible, sad and bordering on predatory aggression some men display against women and children. No one, not a soul, deserves that kind of disrespect and violation of her being. It is, in a word, simply unacceptable.
As the days pass I still can’t quite believe what happened to you during Time of the Writer. When I came back to work after the festival everyone wanted to know about you and if you were okay. I am sure it will take time to heal and for the rest of your life the experience will linger at the back of your mind. What you must know is that every decent South African is behind you. Writers express the soul of a nation in their words, so, this is an attack on every free thinking person.
I hope we can meet for lunch soon – maybe at Spiga since you missed our TOW farewell party – and talk about books, kids and new friendships. Love Carol Campbell xxx
I was with Dala at Chatsworth so I just couldn’t make sense of the attack. She didn’t say anything provocative, or anti-Islam in any way. Its a frightening that you get beaten for liking a writer, but Dala, I pray you get the strength to keep moving, to hold your head up high without fear. Don’t allow such cowardly attacks to break your spirit, for the stuff you are made of is hardcore.
Margaret von Klemperer:
On the opening night of Time of the Writer, I said that we are lucky in South Africa to have freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution. Two days later the irony of that statement and the fragility of that freedom were brutally exposed by the cowardly attack on Zainub Dala. I wish her a speedy physical recovery and the strength to carry on standing up for what we all believe in – the freedom to say and write what we wish.
I was with Zainub at the schools’ forum in Chatsworth when she made an innocuous, off-the-cuff remark about admiring Salman Rushdie’s literary style. Within a short time she was receiving abusive tweets and the next day we heard of the horrific physical attack. As writers it is our responsibility to be truth-tellers, something Zainub emphasised more than once at the festival, and as Ousmane Diarra said, sometimes we put ourselves at risk. However, there is a chasm between debate over a differing opinion and verbal and physical abuse. These are both shocking and unacceptable. I stand in solidarity with Zainub, and I condemn her attackers in the strongest terms.
I’m in support of fellow scribe, ZP Dala, during this difficult time. No one deserves to be hit with a brink in the face for what they love, and much less when it is punishment for the sins of others that aren’t even sins.
What happened to ZP was horrible. Resorting to violence because of a difference of opinion worsens the situation. I am concerned for her and family, especially since some of the comments are not helping but just adding fire to an already volatile situation. I also think that others are using the situation to express long-held hate against a religion that has nothing to do with those who are committing crimes.
I never got to meet Zainub as I arrived in Durban towards the end of the festival. However, I noticed her photograph immediately at the top of the poster promoting Time of the Writer. She seemed to be looking out on the world with a disarming frankness and curiosity. I was saddened, as we all were, to learn of the attack on Zainub. Not only do such acts come from a place of deep cowardice, they entrench the muscle memory of intolerance that afflicts so many of us. Writers like Zainub dissolve that hatred with their frankness and their love. We all stand united behind her, unafraid and as curious about the world as ever.
You did not ask to be made an example of, either by those who hurt you, or those who have defended your right not to be hurt. When life moves on, when people forget, when freedoms are found and lost, discovered again, when others neglect to remember the name, the fear, the shape of the brick, I hope that you retain some faith in humanity, and your soft heart. I am deeply sorry for what happened to you. Wishing you strength in your recovery.