Me Too, To My Everlasting Shame
Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons
the 1960s there was a petition circulated on the campus of the
University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, against Mrs Fatima Meer, a
professor in the Department of Sociology.
Meer was tenured, with a Master of Arts degree. The petitioners
demanded her dismissal from the University because it had come to
light that Mrs Meer was in an incestuous marriage with her first
cousin, and had adult children in the marriage.
petitioners claimed to be defending the integrity of Christianity,
upon which the University had been founded. Christianity, the
petitioners claimed, was against incest, as was the secular law of
Meer's defence was that incestuous marriage was allowed within her
sect of the Islamic religion, and that freedom of religious worship
was allowed by the Country's Constitution, and that Islam was one of
the religions recognized in the Constitution.
Meer found an ally in Miss Sarojini Pillay; but not for the obvious
reason. The obvious reason was that in some sects of Miss Pillay's
Hindu religion, incestuous marriage was allowed. Miss Pillay
expressed her support for Mrs Meer through a prescribed University
was enrolled in classes in the Department of Speech and Drama. In one
of her classes, for academic credit, students were required to form
groups and stage scenes from onstage plays. I was a student enrolled
in that class.
a classroom there were pages on tables for students to enter their
names for the character roles in which they volunteered to be cast.
As always expected, all roles were sought by many volunteers. The
student director of the scene made the final selection.
chose to stage a scene from a play that had a principal theme of
father-daughter incest. William Shakespeare's "Pericles, Prince
of Tyre", written in England in the year 1608.
was most respected and popular, and so it was not surprising that,
with one exception, every one of the eight-or-so male students signed
up to be cast in the scene she would be directing for onstage
presentation. The role was Antiochus, king of Antioch, the incestuous
only one of the many female students signed up for the role of the
daughter. That brave soul was Miss Rajaluxmi Pillay; no family
relationship with Sarojini. Curiously, the daughter character in the
play has no name; she is designated as "The Daughter." That
Rajaluxmi had no competition must have been a first. Usually, there
is fierce competition among Actors and Actresses for onstage roles.
was the exception
who did not sign up for the role of the father. At the time, my
thinking was shallow, harmless prejudice. Incest as a happening was a
no-brainer to me. I did not know, or know of anyone close to my
family, or in my circle of friends, who, either, was in an incestuous
relationship, or was a result of one. I knew incest was something
that was not to be talked about in public, and so I paid practically
no attention to the matter. Mrs Meer was the first incestuouser
of whom I came to know a lot about, in a very short time, because of
the campus unrest.
Meer was in the Department of Sociology. I was not aware of knowing
any student who was enrolled in Sociology. To this day I do not know
where the Sociology Department was on campus.
at the time, my reason for not volunteering to be cast in the scene
was shallow, harmless prejudice, but it did have an immediately
practical purpose. You see, I had not read "Pericles, Prince of
Tyre." It was not on our prescribed list of class texts, and so
if I avoided being cast in a scene from the play, I was not obliged
to read the play. In other words, righteous commitment in moral
solidarity with an honorably principled colleague was of lesser
importance to me than selfish temporary practical convenient
Elizabeth Sneddon was the Head of the Department. While she had no
intention to disallow Sarojini's choice of play or scene, she did
have a fairly long discussion with Sarojini in an attempt to persuade
her to select another scene, advisedly from another play. Sneddon
averred her only concern was to keep the Department at arm's length
from the campus unrest that was being stirred up by the Christian
petition against Mrs Fatima Meer, a fellow professor.
was no reason to think Sneddon had any other objection to Sarojini's
scene. After all, Elizabeth Sneddon was a scholar in the works of
William Shakespeare, and she was well aware of the recurring theme of
incest in his plays. Her other field of expertise was Ancient Greek
theatre. The central theme in the play "Oedipus Rex",
written and staged in Greece over two-thousand years ago, is
said Sneddon congratulated her, somewhat subduedly, after Sarojini
played her final card: the Bible.
the first Hebrew in the land of Canaan, married Isaac, his only child
by his wife, Sarai, to Rebekah, Isaac's first cousin. Hence, every
Hebrew derived from Isaac and Rebekah since, is of incest. Almighty
God, Jehovah, approved: "God said, Thou shalt call his name
Isaac, and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting
covenant, and with his seed after him."
son, Jacob, had two wives, Leah and Rachel. They were sisters. Both
were his first cousins. He had nine children with them. Almighty God,
Jehovah, approved: "And God said unto Jacob, I am God Almighty.
Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a community of nations shall
be of thee. Kings shall come out of thy loins."
genetic lineage of Jesus, the prophesied Christ Messiah, the only
begotten Son of God Almighty, begins in father-daughter incest.
the Book of Genesis, the story is told of Lot's two daughters
seducing their father into wine intoxication in order to engage in
sex with him to have babies. Those two children were the progenitors
of the Ammonite and Moabite tribes.
the Bible Book of Ruth, the story is told of Ruth the Moabitess who
was a direct ancestor of Jesus.
Shakespeare in his "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" has a line in
his play that indicates he was fully aware of the problem with God
Almighty allowing incest to be a part of his plan, "If Jove
stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?"
Jehovah in the Bible is firm and unambiguous about favouring the
children of incest. He commands Moses, "Distress not the
Moabites, neither contend with them in battle, for I will not give
thee of their land for a possession."
Jesus, the Moabite derived of incest, God Almighty said, for all to
hear, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Gods of the Ancient Greeks disapproved of the mother-son incest in
Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. The Gods punished both of them, even
though neither was aware of the incest when they entered into their
marriage. The Almighty God of the Ancient Hebrews fully, almightily
and gloriously approved of, and promised to eternally reward the
incestuous relationships into which, knowingly and willingly, were
entered by Lot's two daughters; Isaac and his wife Rebekah; Jacob and
his two sister-wives, Leah and Rachel.
Pillay contended that, since nowhere in the Bible is incest
categorically condemned, and in many instances openly approved by
Almighty God himself, the declared Christian stance of the
petitioners was untenable; that by the history of Christianity,
beginning in the Bible book of Genesis, those petitioners should have
supported Mrs Fatima Meer in her incestuous marriage that was in
proper accordance with the history of Islam which also has its
beginnings in the Bible book of Genesis.
the scenes of the class assignment were staged in one two-hour
session. For years, only the class professor and students enrolled in
the class were the audience. This session was different.
the professors in the Department were invited by the Head of the
Department, Elizabeth Sneddon. Next to Elizabeth Sneddon in the
audience, by special invitation, sat Mrs Fatima Meer.
the days that followed, Elizabeth Sneddon invited Sarojini Pillay to
address the class with her reasons for supporting Mrs Fatima Meer's
cause against the petitioners. Most, if not all the information
Sarojini presented at that address, I repeat in this story.
observed that the petitioners' Christian stance was flawed in that
Jehovah, Almighty God in the Bible, more than once, rewards continual
incest with everlasting covenants of triumphs; and once with the
promise of an (incestuant) Almighty Messiah,
of the world.
Pillay observed, as well, that, fortunately for the healthy
continuation of ever progressive Civilization, artists like William
Shakespeare take a direction opposite to that of Biblical Jehovah's.
In his fiction work of literary art, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre",
William Shakespeare invents his own Gods who kill the father-daughter
culprits of incest:
from incest lived not free: for which, the most high gods not minding
longer to withhold the vengeance that they had in store, due to this
heinous capital offence, even in the height and pride of all his
glory, when he was seated in a chariot of an inestimable value, and
his daughter with him, a fire from heaven came and shrivell'd up
their bodies, even to loathing; for they so stunk, that all those
eyes adored them ere their fall, scorn now their hand should give
classic Aristotelian cathartic counter-balance to the ugly evil
father-daughter incest of Antiochus and his satirically "Hesperides"
daughter, Shakespeare concurrently narrates a longer narrative in the
play of the trials-into-triumph of the father-daughter adventures of
Pericles and his daughter. The playwright gave this daughter
character a name: Marina.
do not recall what eventually happened with that on-campus petition.
Over the years when I try to remember, I hope word of Sarojini's
class address became known to the Christian organizers, and caused
them to desist and disband. Mrs Fatima Meer continued as Sociology
Professor until her legal retirement many years later.
the following year, the play "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" was
one of the prescribed class plays in the Department of Speech and
Drama at the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.
expected and dreaded Sarojini would ask me why I did not include my
name on the list to be considered for the role of Antiochus, king of
Antioch. She never asked.
and I spent another year in that Department, and then went our
separate ways to different countries.
I feel ashamed that I did not support a fellow student who had the
courage in turbulent and seemingly hopeless times, to undisguisedly
support a cause she believed to be righteous, by the terms of world
literature: Secular; Historical; Artistic; and Religious.
Pillay was retired many years when she died some forty years later,
of natural causes in a faraway country.
gloria tibi, Sarojini. Requiescat in pace, carissime.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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