by Monir Hussain
Do you support any kind of protest against Islamic laws such as killing in the name of Allah, stoning, honor killing, lashing, amputating, child marriages, slavery or burning people alive? Or do you protest the people protesting these practices?
"Have we reached such a stage 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." — Steve Connolly, Managing Director, Penguin Random House, South Africa.
The scenario of the rainbow nation has been changing rapidly as Islamic preaching is fired up in all the provinces.
Do you support any kind of protest against Islamic laws being used in modern societies? Do you protest against suicide bombing, killing in the name of Allah, stoning, honor killing, lashing, amputating, slavery, burning people alive, hijab (Islamic veil for women), child marriages, polygamy or other extremist Islamic practices?
Or do you protest the people protesting these practices? If so, you are also at high risk, it does not matter wherever you live.
Take South Africa. The country make up is only 2.5% percent Muslim in a population of around 50 million. Most Muslims have migrated from distant, Islamic-minded states. On March 18, Zainab Prya Dala, a South African author and mother of two, was assaulted at Durban's "Time of the Writer" festival, after she spoke of her admiration for Salman Rushdie.
The Penguin Random House imprint Umuzi, which published her debut book, What About Meera, has released a statement saying,
Dala, when asked which writers she admired, answered that she liked Salman Rushdie's literary style, along with other writers such as Arundhati Roy. A group of teachers and learners left the forum.
Dala was followed from the festival hotel and was harassed by three men in a vehicle who pushed her car off the road. When she stopped, two of the men advanced to her car, one holding a knife to her throat and the other hitting her in the face with a brick while calling her "Rushdie's bitch".
Steve Connolly, Managing Director of Penguin Random House in South Africa, says: "We condemn completely the brutish attack on author ZP Dala. 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. It is ironic that at a time when the communities of Durban are welcoming writers, some elements are attacking those writers who hold different views.
Zainab Prya Dala, a South African author and mother of two, was assaulted at Durban's "Time of the Writer" festival, after she spoke of her admiration for Salman Rushdie.
After the publication of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill him. Since that time, Rushdie has been a target by many Muslims worldwide. Nothing was different for South African Muslims. The book was published on September 26, 1988. In November, it was banned in Bangladesh, Sudan and South Africa. Since the moment he authored the book, Rushdie has been under police protection. Why are Muslims (both violent and non-violent) throughout the world so intolerant of The Satanic Verses and its author? Because Rushdie looked at the origins of Islam and some of its faults.
Last year, Dr. Taj Hargey, a Muslim scholar, received death threats after trying to modernize the culture of mosques in Wynberg, South Africa. Hargey tried to advance the idea that "Women will enter the same doors as men, women will take part in the service." He tried to present the idea,"You enter the mosque, do I ask you the question who did you sleep with last night? No. It's not my business who you slept with."
His "Open Mosque" in Cape Town has been firebombed three times since it began operation in September. In response, Mr. Hargey said, "South Africans have become Arabised, they think they must wear the burka, must have face masks, that men must wear pyjama dresses. They think that is the only version of Islam."
The scenario of the "rainbow nation" has been changing rapidly as Islamic preaching is being fired up in all the provinces, exemplified by private radio stations such as Radio Islam in Johannesburg, Radio 786 in Cape Town, and Radio Al-Ansaar in Durban. Newspapers such as Al-Qalam, The Muslim Digest, Al-Ummah, The Majlis, Ar Rasheed and Muslim Views also play a vital part.
South African Muslims come from many cultural backgrounds. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, Muslims were imported as slaves from modern day Indonesia, Malay and the Indian subcontinent. The number of Muslims in proportion to others was trivial. In the post-apartheid period, a fresh wave of Muslims arrived in South Africa.
Many indigenous black Africans are apparently converting to Islam. Nicole Itano wrote, in 2002, in The Christian Science Monitor, "Funds from Indian Muslims in South Africa are helping, but there is enormous tension between South Africa's black and Indian Muslim communities. Blacks accuse the Indians of racism. And many Indians tend to adhere to a more radical brand of Islam. One Cape Town based Indian group, Pagad, is named on the U.S. list of alleged terrorist groups, and is responsible for bombing some Cape Town restaurants." Another radical group, Qibla, is also labeled a terrorist organization by U.S. State Department. The organization was formed by a radical imam, Ahmed Kassim, to establish an Islamic state in South Africa.
There are more than 90 Islamic organizations in the country, working in various fields. One of these organizations, the Al-Aqsa Foundation, has been described by the U.S. government as a critical part of Hamas's transnational terrorist support infrastructure. According to the U.S., Hamas raises millions of dollars each year worldwide, using charitable fundraising as a cover. The Al-Aqsa Foundation is alleged to be one such branch that furthers Hamas's activities.
Last year, South Africa's First National Bank gave the Al-Aqsa Foundation three months notice before completely shutting its account. Al Baraka Bank also froze one of its accounts.
The move received widespread condemnation from South African Muslims.
Monir Hussain is a journalist based in Pakistan.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.