South African Author ZP Dala Reportedly Taken to Mental Institution After Refusing to Renounce Salman Rushdie Comments
PEN America report that South African author ZP Dala has been taken to a mental institution in reprisal for her comments about Salman Rushdie during the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban recently.
Rushdie himself responded on Twitter at the time, coming out in support of Dala.
Now, according to PEN America, the shocking news has come about that Dala has been put under “extreme pressure” by members of the Muslim community in Durban to “renounce her statement about Rushdie’s work” and “to make a public vow of religious loyalty to Islam”.
When she refused, she was apparently admitted to a mental institution.
PEN America has called for Dala’s “immediate and unconditional release” and has also called on President Jacob Zuma and the South African Authorities to “ensure Ms Dala’s safety and to prevent reprisals against her freedom of expression and thought”.
PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel, who was visiting South Africa and had contact with Dala, says in a statement: “Harassment, efforts to elicit forced and false confessions, and the denial of liberty are gross infringements of freedom of expression. In expressing her views on Mr Rushdie’s work Ms Dala was engaging in intellectual discourse, an essential lifeblood of any free society.
“It is up to South African authorities and all those in positions of leadership to vindicate her rights and freedoms and take action against those who have sought to deny them.”
Books LIVE is attempting to get in touch with Dala to corroborate the story.
Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, PEN South Africa president Margie Orford, and others have expressed outrage on Twitter:
Looks like I crashed the PEN website page. Apologies. A South African writer has been attacked and imprisoned for admiring @SalmanRushdie.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) April 11, 2015
— Margie Orford (@MargieOrford) April 11, 2015
This is disgusting. She must be released immediately. https://t.co/FL8htmB1KZ
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) April 11, 2015
— Ben Williams (@benrwms) April 11, 2015
— Wamuwi Mbao (@WamuwiM) April 11, 2015
— Tiah Beautement (@ms_tiahmarie) April 11, 2015
Because of the injuries and trauma she suffered, Dala was forced to postpone the launch of her debut novel, What About Meera, which had been scheduled for the Time of the Writer Festival.
PEN American Center expressed outrage at the harassment and confinement in a mental institution of South African psychologist and novelist Zainub Priya Dala (ZP Dala) exacted in reprisal for her comments in appreciation of the writing of former PEN American Center President Salman Rushdie. Speaking at a literary event at a school several weeks ago, Dala voiced public appreciation for Rushdie’s work. Shortly thereafter she was the victim of a violent attack in which the attackers referenced her praise for Rushdie. She was hit in the face with a brick and had a knife held to her throat, resulting in a broken cheekbone. Regrettably, rather than rallying around Dala, some members of the local Muslim community in Durban, South Africa, have ostracized Dala, putting her under extreme pressure to renounce her statement about Rushdie’s work, repent for her “sins,” and to make a public vow of religious loyalty to Islam. When she continued to refuse to make a religious vow or other statements inconsistent with her personal beliefs she was admitted to a mental institution. A psychologist by profession, Dala is the mother of a young child and ultimately consented to go to the hospital to avoid intense and intrusive harassment at her home. She also reports continued questioning about her beliefs by hospital staff.
PEN America calls for Dala’s immediate and unconditional release from institutionalization and demands that all parties cease their questioning and harassment of her for her opinions and beliefs. It calls upon all competent South African authorities, including President Zuma, the courts, and the police, to ensure Ms. Dala’s safety and to prevent reprisals against her freedom of expression and thought. “It is terrifying that in an open democracy like South Africa an individual could be taken to a mental institution for voicing their opinions about an author or a book,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel, who was visiting South Africa and had contact with Ms. Dala. “Harassment, efforts to elicit forced and false confessions, and the denial of liberty are gross infringements of freedom of expression. In expressing her views on Mr. Rushdie’s work Ms. Dala was engaging in intellectual discourse, an essential lifeblood of any free society. It is up to South African authorities and all those in positions of leadership to vindicate her rights and freedoms and take action against those who have sought to deny them,” said Nossel.