Freedom of speech under siege

People have tried to transform a victim into an aggressor: an allegation imposed on ZainubPriyaDala,who has allegedly used a stratagem to generate and boost book sales.

When students asked the author about her favourite writer, Dala said she liked Salman Rushdie’s work. Shortly afterwards, she assaulted and beaten for praising the British novelist Salman Rushdie at a literature festival in Durban, which became not only controversial to some people but unfavourable to freedom of expression.

Credit photo :


March 31 st, 2015


‘Rushdie’s whore’

According to a statement issued by Penguin Random House, Dala was assaulted on 18 March by three men who followed her in Overport. The assailants drove a white car. They forced Dala off the road, and held a knife to her throat. She was hit in the face with a brick while her assailants called her ‘a whore of Rushdie’. Dala reported the assault to the police and an investigation was launched. Her editor condemned the brutal attack as ‘intolerant’. Salman Rushdie is a British author of the controversial book Satanic Verses, a work that earned him a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, calling for his execution for “blasphemy” against Islam.


Riposte and hatred

Dala expressed her horror about the attack on social media and faced severe criticism and accusations for wanting to draw attention to her novel. Hate speech claimed her behaviour was in an “un-Islamic manner” and some threatened to “stone her”.  Some tweeted that Dala engaged in an extramarital affair with a theatre actor and that she drinks too much. One tweet reads: “@zpdala Stoning punish adulterer haram alcohol”. These allegations were firmly denied as she said: “If there is anyone who believes I staged the attack, they are welcome to investigate the incident to establish whether I lied or not.”


Secrecyvs.freedom of speech

A protest and support text has also been published by the international PEN Writer’s Association. Signed by many South African authors, ZainubPriyaDala stressed the issue of freedom of expression and speech writers have been facing in South Africa for decades. Freedom of speech has varied over time, and has moved into muddled waters due to the Secrecy Bill. The controversial bill restricts the publication of secret documents. Her statement explains that writers have never been completely free but was aware of what they are fighting for, and most of the time, risking their lives.

While police are searching for the facts about the assault on Dala, people wonder about every individual’s right to hold opinions, to seek, receive and impart information with ideas through any media without interference, regardless of frontiers. The fact shows that freedom of expression is key to development, dignity and fulfilment of every person. At a national level, it is important for good governance to help competent and honest people administer the state. Freedom of speech promotes the implementation of human rights.


ZainubPriyaDala is a therapist and full-time writer. She has written numerous published stories and articles in the literary fiction genres for many newspapers and magazines in South Africa, namely: The Natal Witness, Marie Claire, Elle magazine and Woman and Home Magazine. She won the True Stories of KwaZulu Natal Award in 2012 and was finalist in Elle magazine’s Short Story competition. She became known internationally when she published in the Sentinel Literary Journal, and won first prise in Annual Short Story Competition in Texas, USA. She has “a gift for words”. Rural sugar plantations, the tiny villages…all of those dusty stories hidden away in cupboards and tin chest are at the her heart of her talents. Durban-based stories are her passion. Zainub is married and has two children.

  • Nov 26

    Youngest Microsoft graduate

    The youngest Microsoft graduate made headline news in British newspapers. Ayan Qureshi (5) poses next to his computer