Sunday, September 05, 2004

Reversion to Zoroastrianism? [fingers crossed]

Dogs and cats living together! A mainstream Western paper has published an article that acknowledges the Islamic record of ethnic cleansing! (hat tip:

Jehangir Pocha, "Shrinking population threatens an ancient faith", The Boston Globe, 2004 September 5.
Zoroastrianism flourished in Persia, now Iran, for more than two millennia, greatly influencing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But it was decimated by the Arab invasion of Persia in 651.
Iran's Islamic leaders ''have tried for centuries to sweep away all trace of Zoroastrianism," said Sohrab Yazdi, a community leader in Yazd, where most of Iran's estimated 30,000 Zoroastrians live.

Pointing to the bright dome of the Jame mosque in the city's center, Yazdi said it was built over a destroyed ''fire" temple[Hagia Sophia or Masjid al-Babri, anyone?], as Zoroastrian places of worship are called because of the sacred fire that burns perpetually within.

But from outside the shattered splendor of Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia, Bahram Agaheri, a Muslim teacher, talked in elegiac rhythms about the desire of many Iranians to rediscover the faith of their forefathers.

''People are tired of the mullahs," Agaheri said, referring to the country's religious leaders. ''If we were allowed to convert, millions would convert to Zoroastrianism. I challenge the government to allow conversion out of Islam for even one day."

But he is unlikely to see that day. Islam bans its adherents from converting, and a Muslim who renounces his faith can face a death sentence.

Caught between a religion that will not allow them out and one that will not let them in, many Iranians are thought to practice Zoroastrianism in secret.

There is also evidence that people in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and some Kurdish regions are rediscovering their Zoroastrian and Persian roots.

A secularized version of Nowruz, the traditional Zoroastrian New Year, is increasingly being celebrated across the region.

These tremors of change excite many Zoroastrians, who despite their demographers' troubling estimates, think their religion is poised to witness a renaissance. But such change also makes many uncomfortable.

Mistri and Yazdi agreed that Zoroastrians do not have the wherewithal to deal with any political backlash from Iran's radical Islamists or India's Hindu nationalists, who also oppose religious conversions.

''You must understand our apprehension," Yazdi said. ''We are like a small, colorful fish in a big pond. One wrong move and we will be eaten."
And from the liberal[1] Boston Globe no less!
Tarikh-i Bukhara, c. 944.
The residents of Bukhara became Muslims. But they renounced [Islam] each time the Arabs turned back. Qutayba b. Muslim made them Muslim three times, [but] they renounced [Islam ] again and became nonbelievers. The fourth time, Qutayba waged war, seized the city, and established Islam after considerable strife....They espoused Islam overtly but practiced idolatry in secret.
[1]Longstanding antipathy to John Kerry notwithstanding