Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Rabbi Annihilates Zoroastrian Existence

The Toronto Star carried an opinion piece by Rabbi James Rudin in today's Life section. The point: "Hatred of Jews didn't end with Haman." He maintains that the Book of Esther "represents the tragic prototype of all future attacks upon Jews and Judaism." Then he does the same thing to Zoroastrians by denying their existence. First he spells the name of Xerxes incorrectly, but that could be a simple typo, not picked up by any editor or proofreader (are there any left?) because of their lack of knowledge. But then he writes:
"Today, Haman, the would-be ancient killer of Jews, has his modern counterpart in another Persian leader who also wants to kill Jews: Mahmoud Ahmadnejad, the president of Iran, the modern name for Persia. Even though the two evil men are separated by thousands of years in time, they both share high political offices in the same country..."

Excuse me? As much as it pains me to say, Haman was a Persian, that is, a Zoroastrian, the people of the original Persian empire, my ancestors. (No-one wants to admit that their history includes evil-doers.) Those Persians existed long before Mohammed came into being and were most definitely not Muslim. The Muslims who live in the same geographic area now -- not the same country, Rabbi Rudin -- are not the same people who are mentioned in the Bible, and it is egregious for a Rabbi -- who presumably is well educated and ought to know all about the ancient Persians versus the people who co-opted that name for themselves when they slaughtered the Persians 1000 years ago -- to write about hatred against the Jews and does the same thing to an even smaller minority by obliviating their very existence. He continued today in his column what the Muslim conquerors started a millennium ago: wipe out the physical existence of a civilization and then wipe out the memory of their very existence by assuming their name, personal names, and language for themselves. Rabbi Rudin writes as if the Zoroastrians never existed. But we did and still do.

Rohinton Mistry writes amazing, complex, humourous books about the Parsees (Zoroastrians) in Bombay, the city with the largest population of Zoroastrians. Toronto has the second largest, I believe. He has nailed our characters and our culture. In his books, and in the excellent movie On Wings of Fire, we will continue to exist as our population diminishes through intermarriage and forced conversions to Islam in Iran.

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