Let's Think

The k-word and the intolerance underlying it

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The argument that if you spell the k-word with one ‘f’ you might be OK, but when you go the double ‘f’ route you become a social outcast, is indicative of the muddled moral thinking about the issue.

The double ‘f’ debate surfaced in parliament, nogal, last week when an Economic Freedom Fighters MP called another member a “k….” for supporting Israel, and one of the justifications put forward was that the word was used in the Arabic sense of the word – a language in which the word means ‘infidel’ or ‘non-believer’.

Besides the fact that Arabic is not an official language in our parliament, how the heck does one know how someone is ‘spelling’ the word when he is speaking?

More importantly, however you spell it, essentially it means exactly the same. When the Europeans came to this part of the world some four centuries ago, it was only the spelling that changed.

They regarded the indigenous population as heathens – non-believers – and the preferred derogatory term to refer to them became the ‘k-word’.

So, whether it is used in English, Afrikaans or Arabic the meaning and intention remain the same – to be derogatory and insulting, and the person or persons it is directed at have every right in the world to regard it as offensive.


More importantly, its use as an Arabic word in political debate reveals an intolerance towards those who hold an opinion that differs from yours – something that especially South African members of the Muslim faith should be very careful of, judged by what happens in the name of their faith across the world.

In a country with a population as diverse as South Africa’s, tolerance of differences in culture, language and especially religion is key to surviving as a peaceful society.

There seems to be a blatant use of double standards in that when you use the word in print with a double ‘f’ you become an instant social outcast with even your employability in serious danger, but if you claim that you slipped in an Arabic word while speaking in a political debate you might get away with it.

Too much tolerance?

On another front, that of the content of television programmes, we – Muslims and Christians – seem to have become tolerant to a disturbing extent.

I’m referring to the extent to which constant blasphemy has become acceptable – especially in the flood of American programmes on our screens. The use of the exclamation “O, my God!” – often strings of them – is a hallmark of many programmes.

Personally, as a grandfather, with my grandchildren often spending time in my home, I find it disturbing and offensive that this phenomenon is increasingly found in cartoons on channels aimed at children.

In my home the rule is, when this does happen, the channel is changed immediately. How else do you teach values to the young if you are not consequent?

by Piet Coetzer

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