SAVE THE PARSI!
By Roni K. Khan
I commend Ms. Pashmina M. Contractorís debut in The Jam-e with her recent articles eloquently espousing the true Parsi ethos. It is heartening to hear a fresh voice speaking out in staunch Zarathushtrian tones. One sincerely hopes this is also an indicator that our slumbering silent majority may at last be breaking its deafening silence to boldly articulate authentic Parsi values and sentiments (even those considered "sensitive" in some quarters). To write effectually and inspiringly on such matters calls first and foremost for a true and steadfast heart. And heaven knows, this is needed more than ever in these days of weathercock principles, slippery loyalties, and opportunistic kowtowing. I am sure that most Jam-e readers will welcome many more free, frank, faithful and forthright writings from Ms. Contractorís pen.
Her able articles On Love and Mixed Marriages (05 July 1998) and A Question of Race (26 July 1998) constitute an act of courage at a time when the combined pressure of big names and big bucks has turned the communityís No.1 problem into an almost unmentionable subject. Mincing no words, Ms. Contractor has grabbed the bull of mixed marriages by the horns, but to her credit she has not stooped to twist its tail and has kept the discussion dignified, factual, and at the level of issues. To this excellent effort I hope I may be permitted to add a few constructive comments and clarifications, as follows.
Ms. Contractor talks about reformists challenging her to show them even one instance from the scriptures "where it says that the children of Zoroastrians married out cannot become Zoroastrians." WHY ONLY ONE? Let her inform these audacious ignoramuses that not just one but at least half-a-dozen injunctions exist in our sacred Zarathushtrian scriptural and religious texts PROHIBITING intermarriage and enjoining Mazdayasni-Zarathushtrians to marry exclusively within the fold! Moreover, these injunctions are applied EQUALLY to both men and women alike ó NO discrimination of any sort!
When intermarriage by either sex is classified as a sin in the Zarathushtrian doctrine, can such unions ever be performed, ratified or recognized by the Zarathushtrian Religion? When a Parsi marriage is not a civil contract but a religious sacrament, can the Zarathushtrian Religion ever betray itself by bestowing its matrimonial sacraments upon mixed unions that are prohibited by its own Holy Writ? And thus, when mixed marriages themselves are expressly and explicitly EXCLUDED from the ambit of the Zarathushtrian Religion, can the PROGENY of such unions ever have any rights to the Zarathushtrian Religion? THE QUESTION DOESNíT EVEN ARISE!
(Some important injunctions on intermarriage have been researched by the present writer in his articles Pak Vendidad On Mixed Marriages (Jam-e, 19 April to 17 May 1992) and The Husparam Naskís Prohibition on Mixed Marriages (Jam-e, 03 January 1993). Photocopies can be obtained free of charge upon request to Roni K. Khan C/o Jam-e.)
Every Parsi man, woman and child is aware of the community rule prohibiting intermarriage, as well as the consequences of violating it. It is vitally important that all Parsis should also be aware, in these dark days of doubt, denigration and defiance, that this is neither an invention of the priesthood nor a hangover from some sociological necessity of earlier times. It is essential to educate the sceptics that the prohibition against mixed marriages rests on nothing less than the DIRECT AUTHORITY of the sacred Zarathushtrian scriptural and religious texts themselves. The issue is expressly taken up and ruled upon in our religious texts in a religious context. It is a matter of Zarathushtrian Religious Law!
If we profess to be Zarathushtrians we cannot go around flouting our religious laws left, right and centre in order to cater to our personal predilections or suit our personal convenience. And worse still, to then try by hook or by crook to turn our Religion upside down to retrospectively justify actions whose consequences we were fully aware of in the first place! Unless there are genuine and insurmountable mitigating circumstances, religious rules are there to be followed. Taking the law into oneís own hands is a recipe for disaster. The laws of the exalted Zarathushtrian Religion are priceless legacies of the highest ancient wisdom, and none could be less qualified to challenge them than we ego-ridden spiritual pygmies strutting about on the crumbling stage of this insanely hedonistic and spiritually bankrupt Twentieth Century. And although it is only Obedience/Discipline (Sraosha) and Humility/Devotion (Spendarmad) that can still pull us out of this sorry mess of our own making, these are the very things we scorn and spurn! At this rate, do we really deserve to survive?
Ms. Contractor laments: "If only these individuals entering into inter-communal marriages would realize the gravity of the situation at hand and the enormity of what their action portends for the future of the Zoroastrian community Ö. ." The very fact that mixed marriages are prohibited in the Zarathushtrian Religion should in itself be an eye-opener and deterrence enough for our marriageable youth. But unfortunately, you canít bank on that sort of thing these days. It therefore becomes necessary to place before them a more exact picture of "the enormity of what their action portends for the future of the Zoroastrian community."
In a word, it portends the death of the Parsi Community. There is no surer method than intermarriage of guaranteeing that the Parsis are rubbed off the face of this Earth. All other problems can be solved, given the perseverance and the resources. But once the "splendid Zoroastrian stock" (as Mahatma Gandhi referred to the Parsis) goes, it is gone for ever. No amount of time, effort, money, housing, glamorous amelioration programmes or "positive thinking" can make it come back. And you can take it for certain that as the "splendid stock" is diluted and lost the Religion too is commensurately diluted and lost.
According to Parsiana magazineís statistics, in 1987/88 the incidence of intermarriage (compared to total marriages) in the Parsi Community was 12 to 14 per cent. In other words, one in every seven or eight marriages was an intermarriage. But in 1995, just a few years later, the incidence was 25 per cent, i.e., ONE IN EVERY FOUR! And in 1996, the figure rose further to 28 per cent. And mind you, thatís mainly in Mumbai. The incidence is higher elsewhere in India, and was estimated in Delhi, for instance, at 40 per cent as far back as in 1985.
In the West, an educated guess would place our intermarriage rate at around 50 per cent. Thatís similar to the level faced by the Jews in North America. Jewish leaders are already pressing the panic button. As one of them told The Times of India in these haunting words, "We will wipe ourselves out by marrying outside the community, not by another Holocaust." Now please pause and consider. The world Jewish population is about 13,000,000. The world Parsi/Irani population is about 130,000. That makes us just one per cent of the Jews. If the Jews are in grave danger due to intermarriage, what would you say about the Parsis?
And yet we are reticent to speak out, afraid of stepping on the corns of Gucci-clad feet and taking the risk of landing on the wrong side of powerful forces that can advance a career, arrange a house, or offer a bagful of silver in a personal emergency. Money makes the mare go; we have already seen our Race and Religion being bought and sold. The less said the better!
We have also seen the tender love that certain reformists, mostly those intermarried, bear towards their own Parsi Community. Note the wise words of a certain navar (yes, navar) who is a leading light in an association which represents and lobbies for intermarried Parsis. His words radiate such nobility that they deserve a paragraph to themselves, as under:
"Why are we lamenting about the possible extinction of the PARSIS, which is merely a RACE? There is definitely cause to grieve over the decline or end of ZOROASTRIANISM as a RELIGION Ö. But why cry over the end of the PARSI? .... No civilized and decent human ought to shed tears on its inevitable end Ö. It is definitely worthwhile trying to preserve the California Condor, the blue whale and the tropical rain forests ó all endangered species, but not worth wasting your time in trying to preserve a self-centred, egocentric race with a built-in suicide mechanism Ö. Let us only hope that Zoroastrianism survives despite the Parsis." (Excerpted from an article published in a journal owned and managed by Parsis. The Parsi editor hailed it as a "beautifully worded article." Bold print and caps. original. Apologies for reprinting these offensive sentiments, but the general interest requires us to be aware and alert.)
I donít know about you, but Iíd "shed tears" just to imagine the end of the Parsi Race ó even though that would put paid to my hopes of being counted a "civilized and decent human" by the civilized and decent standards of the navar. That, however, is a small price to pay for not being counted a racist, or worse. Wishing ill of others on account of race is the familiar sordid face of racism, alien and abhorrent to the Zarathushtrian ethos. But isnít it even more sordid to wish for, exult over, or abet the death and damnation of your own race which nurtured you?
With "beautifully worded" heterodox attitudes, this representative of intermarried Parsis lets slip a thesis which is central to the cause he advocates. Preservation of the Religion, Dissolution of the Race! Up with Zoroastrianism, Down with the Parsi! Thatís the message. Familiar tunes from the battle hymn of intermarriage. Can it be otherwise? The repudiation of race is a fundamental PREMISE of intermarriage. By definition, the rejection of race is INTRINSIC to the very existence of intermarriage. Reformists try to boost this into a virtue in their campaign to justify mixed marriages. Downplaying and downgrading race as unimportant, dispensable and undesirable, they plausibly shift the focus to religion alone and actually make it appear as if race and religion are mutually exclusive! And to complete the imagery, they project themselves as "humanists," "secularists" and "anti-racists." What hypocrisy! In order to see through the professed humanism, secularism and anti-racism of these racists-in-disguise, we need only recall the civilized and decent ardour to preserve birds like California Condors and aquatic mammals like Blue Whales versus "wasting your time" over the dispensable and death-deserving race of human beings known as Parsis. For shame!
Do remember, dear reader, that the benign profession and preservation of race as part of Godís natural order is not racism! Ms. Contractor has explained this well and no elaboration is required. I would, however, like to add that the attempt of the navar and his ilk to dichotomize the Parsi Race and the Zarathushtrian Religion as mutually exclusive is false, impertinent and motivated. "Let us only hope that Zoroastrianism survives DESPITE the Parsis" is a con of the first order. The truth is that Zoroastrianism has survived BECAUSE OF the Parsis.
We are a living Race with a living Faith. In our case, one without the other is unthinkable, even impossible. Two and a half millennia of tumultuous history have PROVED that it is the Parsi Race alone which has been able to sustain the Zarathushtrian Religion, even resurrect it from more than one holocaust ó and measure for measure, it is the Zarathushtrian Religion alone which has been able to sustain the Parsi Race. Being Zarathushtrian is more than professing this particular religion; it also means belonging to an historic group of people which has been its ordained bearer and the faithful carrier of its unique and tolerant culture.
Twenty-five long centuries ago Darius the Great engraved these words into living rock for all the world to see in the ages to come: "Adam Darayavaush .... Parsa Parsahya puthra, Ariya Ariya-chithra" = I am Darius Ö. a Parsi, the son of a Parsi, an Aryan of Aryan lineage. Our most critical asset and the proven determinant for the existence of our Race and Religion is our ETHNO-RELIGIOUS IDENTITY. The survival of the Zarathushtrian Religion is as dependant on the Aryan-Parsi Race as the survival of the Aryan-Parsi Race is on the Zarathushtrian Religion. Lose either one and the other goes too. Dilute the one and the other turns from wine to water. If you wish to disregard the lessons of history, at least take an honest look at the present ó in certain "liberal" quarters of the world today the Parsi Race and the Zarathushtrian Religion are simultaneously becoming unrecognizable. What both Alexander and the Arabs tried but failed to do, we may yet accomplish by our own hand ó God forbid!
I now proceed to de-bone certain red herrings which the proponents of intermarriage always seem to be hauling up in their fishing nets:
Thus, opening wide the doors of the Religion to the mixed progeny of Parsi women too (as recent full-page paid advertisements in a certain Parsi journal glibly persuade us to do in the name of "equality"!) is a very slippery red herring. Two wrongs do not a right make! Obviously, the only rightful way to restore genuine equality and erase the blot of gender discrimination is by calling a halt to the impropriety of inducting the mixed progeny of Parsi men. The community should rise up to demand that the Athornan Mandalís leaders discharge their duty and drill some sorely needed discipline into those priests who flagrantly flout our Religionís laws by performing improper navjotes for mixed offspring. (The issue of gender discrimination in intermarriage has been fully explained by this writer in The Problem Of Intermarriage Summarized (Jam-e, 03 September 1995). A photocopy can be obtained free of charge upon request to Roni K. Khan C/o Jam-e.)
Now for a few closing remarks, please. I have said it before and I say it again that the opposition of orthodox Parsis to mixed marriages is based on righteous religious grounds and so the greatest care should be taken not to let it degenerate by wantonly insulting or degrading intermarried Parsis or their spouses and progeny. An example is the explosive term "adultery" that was alleged to occur in a certain Vendidad passage which prohibits inter-faith marriages. This intemperate term was intemperately used (on not one but two very sensitive occasions) and was responsible for causing a huge conflagration in the community a few years ago. Although that Vendidad passage certainly prohibits intermarriage, the term "adultery" does not occur there; and even if it did, some less supercharged terminology could and should have been discreetly used. (The present writer had objected to the use of this term in his research-article No "Adultery" Please! (Jam-e, 13 February 1994). A photocopy can be obtained free of charge upon request to Roni K. Khan, C/o Jam-e.)
Most of us, I think, have experienced that some intermarried Parsis and their spouses and children are the nicest of individuals whom it is a pleasure to know and count as friends. Cutting out such people from our lives would leave us much the poorer!
But having said that, we have to draw the line insofar as the RELIGIOUS LAWS of the Zarathushtrian Faith are involved, and insofar as the SURVIVAL of the Parsi Community is concerned. It is not a matter of accommodating individuals who find themselves religiously stranded after ignoring certain community rules. It is not a matter located at the "micro" level of the individual. It is a matter located at the "macro" level of a whole race and religion. It is a matter of the GENERAL GOOD. It is a matter of THE GREATEST GOOD OF THE GREATEST NUMBER which takes precedence over any individual considerations. The jugular vein of the Parsi Race and Zarathushtrian Religion is our integrated ETHNO-RELIGIOUS IDENTITY. If this is ruptured, both the Race and the Religion will bleed to death.
The right of any race to its self-preservation is a fundamental and inalienable human right. In our present time of extreme urgency, even peril, I give you this motto:
SAVE THE PARSI!
[Published in The Jam-e-Jamshed Weekly of 06 September 1998]
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