It’s all fun and games until …

Since I posted my column about Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town threatening disciplinary action against two students who “took a knee” in protest at the playing of the Israeli national anthem, I have received a couple of angry emails. One said I was “showing my true colours”. Another accused me of shrouding my “anti-Semitism in layers of irony and humour”, which makes me seem a lot smarter than I am.

When my weekly column first appeared in a Cape Town newspaper sixteen years ago, some readers were quick to describe me as offensive, slanderous and rude. Others said they laughed so much that their morning coffee spurted from their nose.

Then there were those who claimed to be my biggest fans – until the crosshairs swung in the direction of their own skin colour, their own religion, their own hard-earned prejudices and narrow political beliefs. Suddenly it wasn’t so funny.

Anyway. For those who deliberately conflate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, here’s another example of what I’m talking about – but from the other side of the barricades.

To the editor:

Good morning. May peace be upon you.
As a regular Sunday Times reader, I was extremely offended subsequent to reading Ben Trovato’s column, Ace That Job Interview (13/09/2009), where he makes reference to the Burqa (an outer garment worn by Muslim women) and Semtex (a plastic explosive), insinuating that the two are interrelated.

I am sure the Sunday Times values its Muslim readers, and publishing articles with this nature is a blatant insult to Islam and its followers.
I humbly request swift action be taken accordingly.
Thanks and kind regards


When I saw the letter in the paper, I emailed the editor.

Comrade Editor,

May peace be upon you.

I see that a couple of our Muslim brethren are objecting to my one-liner that contained the word “burqa” and “Semtex” in the same sentence and are now demanding that swift action be taken. If I have a choice in the matter, may I please have the flogging rather than the stoning?

We all know that certain sections of the Muslim population are horrendously intolerant, but I’ve never considered that sufficient reason to regard the entire Islamic world as off-limits to satire. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Knowing the extremists’ propensity for over-reaction, I have often held back or toned down the humour when it comes to Muslims. The fundamentalists have already frightened us into self-censorship, but surely we can stop short of a complete ban on lampooning this group?

I’m sure you rather fancy the idea of whipping the whipping boy, but to be honest I’d rather go for a symbolic stoning whereby you flick small pebbles at me and then we go off for a couple of beers.

In the meantime, keep the curtains drawn and watch your back.

Your man in the jihad,

Mustafa Ben Trovato



10 thoughts on “It’s all fun and games until …

  1. Mo Haaarhoff says:

    I succumb to the belief that school pupils should not bring their schools into disrepute; a Jewish school, as with a convent, is entitled to expect certain etiquette to be observed by minors.
    In the same way that employees should not publicly trash those who pay their wages. If you don’t like something, move on.
    In this case, the parents pay the fees and the kids were showing a lack of respect for school and parents. It’s happened before; King David’s, during an international debating event, I think.
    However, if you choose to trash the school,Ben, feel free; just don’t let the kids’ heads swell in the process, please.

  2. MrOfnoctonod says:

    Dear bearded committee who makes up the rules on behalf of the one true fairy in the sky. As of 18 September, I’m happy to accept “stoning” as my default punishment.
    Yours etc..

  3. Roelie says:

    Damn Ben these prejudices of your are getting so out of hand. Please balance things, we need you to write about Christians, Shintoists, Buddhists, Mayan Revivalists and many more. I understand that it may take years to cover all that but please do try. Nobody enjoys neglect, not even atheists.

  4. Zulayka Bhyat says:

    You kill me🤣😂🤣😂 .. And i’m supposed to be the terrorist.

  5. SUREN Maharaj says:

    Colours were shown, Ben, colours were shown!

  6. Nkululeko Mvulana says:

    I once heard my wife remark “running down the road to Tel Aviv dear” in reference to the Sea Point Spar…all makes sense now

  7. Craig Hart says:

    @ Nkululeko Mvulana
    That is a first class comment.
    I’ll have a beer with you anytime.

  8. Nkululeko Mvulana says:

    I blame our schooling system, apartheid, the ANC, my parents and yours and the Sunday Times. Tolerance, Awareness, Diversity, chilling the fuck out and the ability to laugh at oneself should be taught in prep school curricula. Is Herzlia in Israel?

    1. Ben Trovato says:

      Herzlia is one of Israel’s occupied territories in South Africa.

      1. Michael says:

        America is Israel’s biggest province.

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