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Ballito - Beauty pageant finalist from Ballito is at the centre of a Diwali storm which prompted rape threats after she posted on Facebook that she hated fireworks.
Blonde bombshell Caroline Ashworth drew the ire of Hindus after she posted anti-Diwali comments.
On Saturday Durban businessman Vivian Reddy led a protest march in Chatsworth to express Hindu solidarity around Diwali and has threatened to haul Ashworth before the Human Rights Commission.
Although Ashworth apologised to the Indian community, she remains defiant.
“I am sincerely sorry to everyone who was upset and offended by my status. I understand how it came across and how it has affected people and I realise it was wrong and a stupid mistake. I hope you can all forgive me,” said Ashworth.
Annoyed by the fireworks during Diwali celebrations on Tuesday, Ashworth took to her Facebook page to express her frustrations.
“To the Indians who call this celebrating, seriously this is f***ing ridiculous!! I hate you people letting off fireworks! So inconsiderate – you don’t deserve health, wealth, prosperity or any other of the things that Diwali is supposed to bring you,” read the post.
The post was shared on social media networks and circulated on BlackBerry messenger.
In retaliation, a Facebook page called “Caroline Ashworth is a ****” (a derogatory reference to a body part) was created. It has 979 likes.
Ashworth’s long apology went on to say: “The reason I said ‘to all the Indians who call this celebrating’ was because it is an Indian festival – I know not every Indian person celebrates Diwali but it is people within the Indian community – and just because I used the word Indian shouldn’t make me a racist.
“I said ‘I hate you people lighting fireworks’, I did not say I hate Indians or the Indian community. It was clearly directed at the people who were lighting the fireworks.
“I am sorry if my comments offended anyone, I am not a racist, I have friends of all races, including Indians.”
She said she was an animal lover fostering six abandoned puppies and two of her dogs and a cat went “manic” (about fireworks) leading to her posting about her frustration.
But she also said the Indian community was over-reacting.
“What about my freedom of speech? I haven’t said anything wrong. It’s my opinion anyway.”
Ashworth said she had received death threats: “People are calling me a racist. They have threatened to burn me alive, burn my car, my house, gang-rape and murder me.”
She said she was suing her critics for defamation, including the person who set up the derogatory Facebook page.
“I stick by what I said, but I am sorry if I have offended anyone.”
But Reddy is offended and will be referring the matter to the Human Rights Commission.
“I am absolutely outraged by the social media comments. It is blatantly racist and borders on hate speech and is an outright attack on all Indians celebrating Diwali. The racist posting undermines the sacrifices of President Nelson Mandela and so many others.
“I strongly believe that anyone who makes racial or hate postings should be named and shamed by the media. People must be made accountable for their actions,” said Reddy.
President of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said he supported Reddy’s decision.
“The time has come for us to take action against some ‘white racist’ South Africans who believe they have a right to criticise and insult the Indian community,” said Trikamjee.
On Saturday the Hindu, Muslim and Christian community marched in solidarity against the attack on Diwali and Indian culture. Led by Reddy, marchers included members of the MK Veterans Association, Muslim and Christian leaders and community leaders.