High Court stops Bible burning
Johannesburg - The High Court in Johannesburg on Friday stopped the burning of the Bible at Library Gardens from going ahead.
Attorney Zehir Omar said Judge Sita Kolbe granted an interdict to stop businessman, Mohammed Vawda, from going ahead with burning the Bible, in protest against a now-suspended plan by a United States pastor to burn the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
“The judge agreed that freedom of expression is not unlimited if one exercises freedom of expression that is harmful to others," he said.
Omar represented a Gauteng-based organisation, the Scholars of the Truth.
Speaking to Sapa after the interdict was granted, Vawda said he had erred in wanting to burn the Bible.
He was adamant that the plan to burn the Bible was not aimed at attacking Christians or the people of South Africa. Rather, it was to highlight that similar action should have been taken against US pastor, Terry Jones, over his threat to burn the Qur'an.
"... His [Jones'] actions infuriated me and incited me and enraged me. I decided to act against him and his actions by burning his book," he said.
The court papers, however, mentioned parts of the Qu'ran which speaks out on respecting both the Bible and the Jewish Torah.
"I then understood," he said.
"But I still think if the applicant could do this to me, how come nobody in America didn't take similar action," he said.
"We hosted the World Cup, they came here and saw our country, maybe now they can take a lesson from us."
Omar said his clients had also requested that all religious books be included in the interdict, this application would be heard at a later stage, as would the matter of costs.
Vawda earlier this year appeared in court when a colleague, Willem Harmse, tried to interdict him from using the words "shoot the boer" on posters in a planned crime march.
The interdict was granted and the words "shoot the boer" were banned.
Omar had represented Vawda's opposition, Harmse, in that case too.
Jones drew widespread condemnation for his now-suspended plans to burn the Qur'an to commemorate the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
The Muslim Judicial Council in South Africa called on Jones to get to know the Qur'an a bit better before burning it.
Spokesperson Nabeweya Mallick said despite it being called off, the threat to burn the Qur'an was a concern as it showed the "extreme views" that persisted.
"We hope that they realise their actions do nothing good for mankind... right now if you look at the world, at natural disasters for instance, if we are faced with any challenge we stand together."
She added that the bid to burn the Bible in South Africa was contrary to Islamic teachings and the Qur'an.
Imtiaz Suliman, of the prominent Islamic relief organisation Gift of the Givers, appealed for calm heads over Jones' plans.
He urged South Africans to "ignore this man and not give him attention".
"Leave him to God," he said.
"Real people of religion don't carry out acts that create conflict... real people of religion bring about compassion, understanding and patience."