Author ZP Dala wants out of mental institution

2015-04-12 16:59

Johannesburg - Durban writer and psychologist Zainub Priya Dala on Sunday said she wants to get out of the psychiatric ward she checked herself in to, as people were “pointing and whispering”.

“Due to very strong meds and the people pointing and whispering I told the nurses to call my doctor and discharge me," she tweeted on her @ZPDala account on Sunday.

She said she felt she would be safer at home as word had spread that she was in the hospital and journalists were constantly calling her. The doctor who could authorise her discharge was however on leave.

She "reluctantly" checked herself into St Joseph Hospital’s psychiatric wing last week on the advice of a “religious leader” following an assault and pressure from her Muslim community in Durban, after she had expressed support for novelist Salman Rushdie at a literary event on March 18. She was told to do so to reflect on her religion and imaan, she tweeted.

Dala was assaulted in Overport, Durban, the following day, and several days before she was to launch her first novel. She was forced off the road by three men in a car. Two of them accosted her, held a knife to her throat and hit her in the face with a brick. They called her “Rushdie’s bitch”.

At the time, her publishing company, Umuzi publishers, the South African imprint of Penguin Random House, said it believed Dala was attacked because she had expressed admiration for Rushdie’s writing style.

British Indian author Rushdie’s controversial 1988 novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ sparked protests by Muslims in several countries. He received death threats and was named in a 2010 al-Qaeda hit list by Islamic militant Anwar al-Awlaki.

Writers’ organisation, the PEN American Centre, said some members of the Muslim community in Durban ostracised Dala, pressured her to renounce her statement about Rushdie's work, and called for her to "repent for her sins" and 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," the PEN American Centre said in a statement.

English PEN said the campaign of intimidation against Dala, a physiotherapist specialising in autism, needed to stop.

“The repercussions of her public statement of support for Salman Rushdie should appal anyone who cares about freedom of expression in South Africa,” said English PEN director Jo Glanville.

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