Muslim comic faces legal action

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:48 PM  | Simmi Areff  | Drama

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Strictly Makrooh is the name of emerging comedian Simmi Areff’s debut solo stand-up show. Scheduled for November, he had just begun with online marketing for it when it hit a storm.

On Monday, Areff received a strongly worded letter from the SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha) instructing him to hand over his promotional material so that it can be destroyed.

The problem has to do with Areff’s satirical use of Sanha’s logo on the poster.

Instead of it declaring that his comedy product is halaal, Simmi has changed the logo to read “haha-laal” and underneath it, “Simmi Areff National HAHA-laal Authority”. The Arabic has also been changed to read “haha-laal”.

Sanha’s lawyer, Michael Jackson of Cox Yeats Attorneys, wrote in the letter: “Your utilisation of part of our client’s logo is unlawful.” He writes that Sanha has the right to inderdict the comedian.

Sanha requires a written undertaking that Areff will “immediately cease the use of the trademark” and that all of his poster materials “be delivered to our client, care of ourselves, for destruction”. Sanha also wants to know the name of the layout designer and the printer of the promotional material. They are asking for damages, which will depend on the extent to which he has distributed the material.

Simmi has decided to fight the action on the grounds of his freedom of expression and in light of the precedent-setting 2005 Constitutional Court ruling against SAB and in favour of Laugh It Off’s satirical Black Label T-shirts reading “Black labour white guilt”.

In an interview with City Press, Simmi responded to the letter by saying: "Halaal is an important concept to the Muslim community. However, Sanha nor any other halaal ‘authority’ own the Arabic word ‘halaal’. What I did was a parody of their logo. Not a parody of the concept of halaal. I’m a comedian. I make jokes. This is one of them. They really shouldn’t take me so seriously … If I thought it was offensive I would never have put it on. They never said it was offensive, just that I must stop using their trademark.”

Sanha has given Areff until Saturday to respond. If he doesn’t, their lawyers have been “instructed to make an application to the high court”.

What do you think? Sanha are overreacting or Simmi needs to rework his material (and poster)?

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