A 14-year-old Muslim girl has been suspended from an exclusive school for responding to an anti-Palestinian article at the behest of her history teacher. Layla Cassim, a grade 10 student at Crawford College, in Johannesburg, approached her history teacher last month and complained about an offensive article against the Palestinians on the school notice board. Layla felt that the article was biased since it only presented the Israeli point of view.
Her teacher, a Mr McMohan, suggested she write an article presenting the Palestinian perspective and in the interest of free speech, it would be pasted on the same notice board. She wrote an article giving her perspective in the most polite and mild manner. She said the earlier article was unfair in that it ignored the plight of the Palestinian people whose land has been taken away by force. She felt that the Palestinians were not being treated justly. This, however, was not acceptable to the Jewish students at school.
Free speech, it seems, is reserved for only one side - the Jews - to make whatever allegations they want against others - Palestinians and Muslims, without the latter having the right to respond. Not only was there a storm of protest at school but the information was passed on to the Jewish Defence League (JDL) as well, a group of militant Jews who make no bones about their intent to ‘fix’ anyone up who disagrees with their violent ideology.
The JDL senior national spokesman, Frank Startz, sent a threatening letter to Layla’s father Hassan Cassim warning of terrible consequences unless he gave assurances that Layla would never entertain such thoughts again. The JDL letter said in part: ‘You are required to furnish our organisation with assurances that there will be no repetition of any political or anti-Jewish sentiments emanating from your daughter. The matter is NOT open to either debate or discussion.’ The letter had already stated in a previous paragraph that the JDL is ‘not interested or swayed by arguments supporting free speech and democracy.’
If anyone thought that in post-apartheid South Africa, there was freedom of speech, they had better think again. At least the JDL has made clear that it does not believe in freedom of speech; nor is it interested in any discussion. It wants compliance with its commands treating South Africa as a zionist colony.
How the JDL got hold of Layla’s article is not known but because of a large Jewish student population at school, it is evident that some pro-zionist student and/or teacher forwarded it to the militanat outfit. The school principal, Ron Conacher, has behaved in an even more bizarre manner. Far from addressing the issue in a mature way by trying to understand the circumstances in which Layla wrote her piece, he accused her of having ‘behavioural problem.’ Those who take issue with the zionist point of view must be suffering from some behavioural problem that needs correcting.
Even more serious is the fact that the Cassim family address was passed on to the JDL, the most militant and violent Jewish outfit which has no respect for law or other people’s lives, by Crawford College. The school principal failed to communicate proper information pertaining to this incident, that Layla had written this in response to her teacher’s request and in the interest of free speech. Further, another teacher at school, Mrs J. Jaye, of Jewish origin, conveyed to the Cassim family that there was nothing anti-semitic or racist about Layla’s piece. Yet this information, too, was withheld from other students as well as the staff members.
The principal’s failure is astounding. Far from protecting the rights of one of his students, he took the extraordinary step of suspending her from school, merely to appease the JDL thugs.
Hassan Cassim as well the Media Review Network (MRN) of Pretoria have taken up the issue with the Commission of Human Rights. Dr Feroz Osman, in an MRN press release dated November 23, called on the authorities to investigate this matter and ‘to take remedial steps to ensure Layla cassim’s constitutional rights are protected.’
This issue is far too serious to be allowed to go unnoticed, or unchallenged. Muslims had played a leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle. There were no Muslims on the side of apartheid; there were hundreds of thousands of Jews who were in league with the apartheid regime. They were the beneficiaries of the apartheid system, amassing fortunes by way of controlling the largest companies in the country.
The end of apartheid should not mean that apartheid’s bedfellows should come to terrorise those very people who gave their lives and went to prison to fight against that abominable system. Crawford College’s behaviour vis-a-vis the treatment it has metted out to Layla is reminiscent of the apartheid era mentality. Should the school and the JDL get away with such behaviour, it will be a slap on the face of the new, post-apartheid South Africa.
Muslimedia: December 16-31, 1998