Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rebuttal to Homi Dhalla's letter

From: Pervin Mistry
Sent: Tuesday, February 07, 2012 10:25 AM

Dear Kaizad,

Thank you for sending Mr. Adi Doctor's excellent reply. I am posting the entire article of Dr. Homi Dhalla written in favour of matrilineality. Also adding some observations of my own in blue.


By Dr. Homi Dhalla—BOMBAY SAMACHAR—Feb. 5, 2012
The question about children of mixed marriages, i.e. between a non-Parsi father and a Parsi mother has been simmering for decades and even today it continues to remain as tangled as ever. 
Being a neutral voice, I am neither an orthodox nor a reformist but a pragmatist. And I believe that in this discussion, questioning, criticism and dissent must be valued.
A "prgamatist" would write that BOTH sexes are condemned for intermarriage, as the scriptures reveal and not make the illogical statement that if intermarried men are accepted women too should be accepted! Patrilineality is long since held as an Obiter Dicta, i.e. NOT binding on the community, by 3 sitting Judges of the Bombay HC! Instead of "discussion, questioning, criticism and dissent" why not advocate obedience to the laws of the religion? A true pragmatist would! 

I for one am not in favour of intermarriage and would not encourage it. But as the statistics for intermarriages in Mumbai for the year 2010 has increased to 38% and we have not been able to arrest this trend. We ought to examine this situation in new light and with great discretion. Are we to ostracize these intermarried mothers and discard their children? 

According to the Davar-Beaman Judgement of 1906, only the offspring of Parsi fathers and non-Parsi mothers were to be admitted into our fold. But in the last 100 years much water has flowed. 

Zarathushtra laid down the magna carta of gender equality 

Although he lived in a patriarchal society he emphasized the idea of gender equality. 
What is pertinent to our discussion here is that out of the six Holy Immortals, three are masculine while the others are feminine aspects. I quote Dr. I. J. S. Taraporewalla who had stated that: 

"It is rather remarkable that three out of the six Holy Immortals should represent the masculine aspects of God and the other three the feminine aspect. This is but one of the many hints we get in Zoroaster's religion of the absolute equality of the sexes." 

Zarathushtra was not only a Prophet but also a reformer who transformed the religious landscape of his period
Indeed, Asho Zarathushtra was a "reformer" who got rid of the devayasni practices that had creeped in the Mazdayasni camp and reformed the Mazdayasni religion to the Mazdayasni Zarathushti Religion! He did not convert others but only those who had fallen victims to the Devayasnis (unrighteousness) back into the Mazdayasni fold! This is why we maintain that we are Mazdayasnis and follow the Mazdayasni Zarathushti Religion as taught by Asho Zarathushtra, "Mazdayasno ahmi mazdaysno Zarathushtrish"! This declaration of fiath does not indicate or support conversion from religion to religion as some conclude!
When one studies the early history of the world's religions, we come to the conclusion that all Prophets were also reformers and Zarathushtra was no exception. When he propounded his religion at the early dawn of history, the Mazdaysni religion was already in existence. 

The crucial role of the Divine Feminine in various cultures 

The Divine Feminine is an immaculate force in Creation. Feminine energy, which is woven into the cultural fabric, nurtures, heals, comforts and motivates. It manifests itself in different goddesses across various cultures. The tradition of invoking female deities is an integral part of most ancient cultures. 

In ancient Iran, position of women was exalted. Slaves too enjoyed rights 

The position of women serves as an index to the condition of an age. Several references in our scriptures point to the fact that women enjoyed a high status in society. In the Aiwisruthrem Gah we come across the term nmano paiti and nmano pathni which terms connote the 'lord of the house' and the 'lady of the house.' This shows that a wife enjoyed an equal status at home. 

The Pahlavi text Madigan-i-Hazar Datistan (the Digest of a Thousand Points of Law) deals exhaustively with the rights of a woman, wife and daughter. Women were allowed to select their own husbands and widows were allowed to re-marry. They could hold property and represent themselves in court. She could legally conduct her husband's case in court. Qualified women were appointed as judges. Some of these women had also evolved to a lofty spiritual stature and hence the Avestan allusion to women saints. It is thus evident from our scriptures that Iranian law firmly upheld numerous rights and privileges of the wife, which for obvious reasons cannot be discussed here.
This Pahlavi text speaks about the rights of women but does it anywhere refer to the rights of intermarried women? No! Nowhere in this Text are intermarried women referred to as having their "rights" on the religion and those rights as "accepted"! 

The mother not only nurtures life but also sustains it. 

It is the mother who nurtures the child in her womb for nine months --- It is her blood that transforms it into a miracle of life! Modern genetics shows that though the genetic information of the child is encoded in the nucleus of the cells (both paternal and maternal), there is the cytoplasm mitochondria or energy producing organelles that have their own genetic code. Being in the cytoplasm, it is strictly passed on from mother to child and like any other gene can have effects, favorable or deleterious. This shows that the mother has a special place in the genesis of the child. 

Empowerment of women 
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also emphasizes equality of sexes. 
Gender equality is a Millennium Development Goal (MDG). 

The central challenge for the global community --- to ensure a decent life and opportunities for all people, took tangible form in the Millennium Declaration of World Leaders in September 2000. This led to the Millennium Development Goals. The Goal to bring about gender equality is one of the MDGs.
Please read carefully! Here, the MDG is referring to "ensure a decent life and opportunities" because till today, in many countries, women are still unable to vote or drive a car or be considered with respect by the male members of their society. Where does it talk about religious rights? Nowhere! Pragmatically, it is dishonest to hoodwink the gullible! 

'UN Women'-further enhancement of the status of women. 
Michella Bachelet, former President of Chile is now the Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of 'UN Women'. She states that "Women across the world enjoy far greater opportunities and various forms of freedom than compared to the past. It has been a very slow and peaceful revolution underpinned by a tremendous transformation of legal rights. Almost all countries have signed international conventions signaling their commitment to outlawing discrimination against women. Nearly 140 national constitutions specifically guarantee gender equality. 

"Without a doubt, women's strength, industry and wisdom are humanity's greatest untapped resource. It is potential we simply can't afford to continue to waste. It was this recognition that led to the formation of 'UN Women', which brings together all the UN gender equality agencies under my leadership. It was our recognition that addressing the justice gap was crucial to removing the barriers to equality which made it the subject of our first report-Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice".
Here again, women's social and economic issues are addressed. Not religious rights. Please read the article very carefully because all the evidence provided refers ONLY to social and economic rights! A religion too has RIGHTS to exist without interference from the political law and how many religious communities will the law address to adapt to change if the law infringes on religious mandates? Although the Christian women rights' group demanded their rights to conduct rituals and held protests at the Vatican, the last Pope John Paul II held firm and did NOT give in because it went against the belief and practice of the Christian religion! Which government interfered and demanded that in the US, Italy or anywhere else tha Catholics accept women priests? None! There is still religious freedom given by all govenrments in all developed countries! 

Un Secretary-General Ban- Ki-moon called July 2, 2010, a "watershed day". That was when the General Assembly approved the creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women - known simply as 'UN Women'. This would finally give half the world's population the high-profile platform it deserved. 
Britannia strikes a historic blow in favour of women's rights 
On October 29, 2011, 16 countries that recognize the British monarch as head of state struck a historic blow in favour of women's rights by abolishing male precedence in the order of succession to the throne. The decision to overturn the centuries-old tradition known as primogeniture was also accompanied by the scrapping of a constitutional prohibition on the monarch marrying a Roman Catholic. Prime Minister David Cameroon of UK said that these changes would sweep aside outdated rules that "just don't make sense to us any more".
Again, this primogeniture word is used to lull the gullible into awe! Read what it says! It only addresses the issue of a Protestant monarch marrying a Catholic which till now was banned in Britain! But, both sects are Christian! By no means is intermarriage or acceptence of matrilineality referred to! Please do not get taken in by all this mumbo-jumbo! The Catholic church does not permit divorce and so when Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife and remarry, Britain was "converted" from Catholic to Protestant but it is like saying a shenshai married a kadmi and therefore converted to the Kadmi sect!! Gosh, how can an educated scholar give these excuses to demand women's so-called religious rights? I wonder! 

This momentous decision was taken in Perth, Australia, where Commonwealth heads of government were holding a summit meeting. Queen Elizabeth ll who has been supportive of this move, was also present in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth, when this announcement was made. 

Supreme Court of India: "All forms of discrimination on grounds of gender is violative of fundamental freedoms and human rights" 

The Constitution of India has provided for safeguards for life and liberty and due to changing socio-economic times, the explanation and interpretation has been expanded to include all living beings. 
I refer very briefly to two judgements of the Supreme Court of India which are relevant to this discussion: 
In the case of Valsamma Paul (Mrs.) v. Cochin University, (1996) 3 SCC 545, the Supreme Court of India after considering the various Articles of the Constitution including Articles 14 and 21, the Hon. Court held that: 

"Human Rights are derived from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person. Human rights and fundamental freedoms have been reiterated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and have mutual reinforcement. The human rights for women, including girl child are, therefore, inalienable, integral and an indivisible part of universal human rights. The full development of personality and fundamental freedoms and equal participation by women in political, social, economic and cultural life are concomitants for national development, social and family stability and growth - cultural, social and economical. All forms of discrimination on grounds of gender is violative of fundamental freedoms and human rights."
Yes, do read again and again and one does not have to be a lawyer to smell a deceit. Here again, the government deals with human rights issues which involve "fundamental freedoms and equal participation by women in political, social, economic and cultural life" and refers to cultural, social and economic growth ONLY! Nowhere does it mention that the Govt. of India gives religious freedom to intermarried Hindu women to enter their sacred consecarted temples which are till today banned to the Hindu intermarried women! There will be social riots all over India IF  a law was passed which hinder a religion from being followed as per its mandated scriptures and age-old traditions! Please do not get carried away by high sounding words and demonstation of legal advice! India grants full independence to all religions to carry on with their mandated scriptural doctrines and traditions! Dr. Sayedna, the respected leader of the Bohri community, has proven so in the Supreme Court! In India there is still discrimination against women regarding the right of inheritence to her husband's property. Women are still set on fire on the issue of "dowri" and there is domestic violence. It is these socio-economic laws that are addressed as an issue of equality! No religious reforms are mentioned or will be dealt with!

In various judgements delivered by the Supreme Court of India from time to time, the Hon. Court has held that "...The world has witnessed a sea change. The right of equality of women vis-a-vis their male counterparts is accepted worldwide. It will be immoral to discriminate a woman on the ground of sex. It is forbidden both in the domestic law as also international law..." (Paras 33 and 36) John Vallamattom v. Union of India, (2003) 6 SCC 611 

In October 2011, Mr. Darius Khambatta, Additional Solicitor General of India stated that "The wife has a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India (right to life) to use any name including her married name notwithstanding the fact that her marriage has been dissolved".
Please read what Mr. Darius Khambatta, Additional Solicitor General of India states. Here again, only the wife's right regarding using any name whether or not her marriage is dissolved or not, is mentioned! She is entitled to use her married name of her maiden name. That is all! This does not refer to intermarried women's rights in favour of matrilineality on any community, at all! Take care when you read this paper! It is all golam-gol. 

Expanding rights of children 
Several Articles in the Constitution of India safeguard the rights of children. In recent months, two important decisions of the Supreme Court of India are relevant. 
On December 2, 2000, Justice Sam Bharucha, the ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India inaugurated the meeting of the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India at Jamshedpur. In his address, he referred to the performance of the navjote of a child born to an intermarried Parsi mother. Inter alia he said, "...I must go on to add that the Anjumans and Punchayats should consider the admission into the faith, by the performance of the navjote, of a child born to a Parsi mother and a non Parsi father, provided such child is the product of wedlock and the father is a consenting party. I know that a judgement delivered long back by the Bombay High Court would seem to be standing in the way, but if the Anjumans and Punchayats all resolve that this is the appropriate practice to adopt and the practice is challenged on the strength of that judgement, it can, given the change in the circumstances, be over-ruled."
Even Justice Sam Bharucha, the respected ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India maintains that a judgement is delivered by the High Court of Bombay against matrilineality. Sadly, the anjumans and punchayats are encouraged to challenge this judgement and have it over-ruled! But we pray that the followers too will be heard and our traditions, rituals and age-old customs will prevail, by help from Ahura Mazda! 
Then why are some Parsis supporting gender discrimination?
Why are some knowingly disobeying religious laws and then enforce their "rights" on the community? 

This is not conversion 
Conversion and acceptance are the two sides of  a coin as very clearly pointed by Dasturji Hormazdyar Kayoji Mirza! It is only because of intermarriage that the progeny demand acceptance and then also the right of the juddin spouse/parent to be religiously accepted!

Every time an intermarried child is refused admission into the faith, it causes pain, anxiety and a sense of rejection in the confused mind of a mother. Even when her non-Parsi spouse has no objection about their child being initiated into the Zoroastrian faith, the community slams the door into her face. We should thus dismantle the barriers of insecurity for these women by upholding their rights and allow their children to be admitted into our fold. If we allow a child of an intermarried Parsi woman into the Zoroastrian fold, it cannot be termed as 'conversion'---this is 'acceptance'. 
There are some who contend that in other patriarchal societies, the children of intermarried girls are not accepted. This does not help our case. This argument does not hold good because of the drastically dwindling population of our community. The problem of numbers is not so acute in other communities.
Of course this helps our case regarding numbers! The remedy proposed is worst than the dwindling numbers! As it has been stated again and again and by many, even by Dasturji Dabu that if a glass is half filled with milk and if we add water to increase the level, what will we have? Neither pure milk nor water but BOTH will be diluted and mixed! So, to address the depleting numbers a hara-kiri is proposed and our numbers did become zero in communities in Europe and China and elsewhere where "acceptance" was practised! We have never been a large community since the past millennium. Numbers do NOT count where quality and survival are at stake! There are many microscopic communities in North America itself who do not accept any outsiders, not even Christians into their fold although all Christians hold Lord Jesus Christ to be their Prophet! Endangered species are never interbred but only within their own sub-species as in the endangered species of birds (condors) and animals (white tigers)! The mixture of two species of tigers, white with the other tigers does not produce white tigers! Any human progeny too inherits two religions, cultures and social norms. To them, there is no pride in being affiliated or identified with any one group! They do not look at others at "them" and "us" but only as one world society. But these good folks need to consider if the one world economy and trade rules have benefitted our financial position throughout the world or brought the whole world on the brink of bankruptsy and financial crisis! The same is applicable to religious orders too because religion is not a system of democracy but being revealed, is meant to be followed by putting aside the interest of a few in the greater interset of the survival of the many, i.e. a religious community's survival! Our religion teaches about the One World Community as the Universal Brotherhood of Ardafravash to which we all belong to but yet, we respect the rights of all other religions to exist and respect the diversity in Nature which is Willed by the Almighty Himself! Are we all really the same or should we celebrate the differences and accept these with grace and wisdom? 

Let us not forget that when Mr. R. D. Tata who was the father of the late Mr. J. R. D. Tata evinced a desire to marry a French lady, Suzanne Briere, it was the learned High Priest, Dastur Kaikhooshroo Jamaspji who performed her Navjote ceremony. 
Moreover it is a known fact that although Sir Ness Wadia, father of Mr. Neville Wadia was a born Zoroastrian, he converted to Christianity through the Church of England and Married a Christian lady by following Christian rites. Their son Mr. Neville Wadia who was baptized in the Church of England, till the age of 80 years he remained a Christian. Later when he wished to become a Zoroastrian, his Navjote was performed although he had a non-Parsi mother and a father who had converted to Christianity! 
In this context, there was a letter written by the late Dasturji Dr. Hormazdiar Mirza and Dasturji Dr. Kaikhushroo JamaspAsa wherein a reason for the performance of this Navjote was mentioned. They considered this as an exception. Why should religious injunctions be so flexibly interpreted? Why should our scriptures be interpreted to suit the convenience of a millionaire (who was a Christian for 80 years of his life and had a non-Parsi mother) and the same right be denied to a child of a Parsi mother who has been practising Zoroastrianism all her life?
It is truly sad that the "exception" did not remain so as is normally the practice! It becomes the norm! Also, no intermarried can claim he/she is practising the religion when the very mandate of NOT marrying out is thrown to the winds! This should also be taken into account! Religion must hold first preference in one's life and that is why even the pious lady Jebai Wadia did not ever accept her son Sir Ness as a Parsi Zrathushti! Even her written Will is disregarded!

On October 7, 2011, the Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo, Norway, recognized the brave deeds of three remarkable women by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to them. They are Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. They leave behind a legacy of inspiration for future generations. Ban-ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General said, "This award could not be better chosen. It underscores the role that women play in the advancement of peace and security, development and human rights". 

Through this selection, the Nobel Prize Committee has acknowledged that given equal opportunities in governance and development, women pull others - children, families, more women - into an expanding circle of benefits that encompasses education, healthcare, employment and peace. One empowered woman empowers many other people, functioning as she does in an interlocking system of kinship and societal links. Empowered women mean empowered Societies. Women have been agents of not only social but also political change as can be seen in the important role they have played in the Arab Spring. In some cases they have led their countries in the capacity of presidents or prime ministers.
Definitely! But throughout this whole paper women's social and economic rights are addressed! Where is religion mentioned or religious rights of women who disobey and get intermarried? Scripturally, even the men are forbidden! Our religion is NOT bound to accept even intermarried men as this law is an Obiter as well! This is why the followers wish to be left in peace to follow their religion WITHOUT any alterations or enforced changes! 

Another interesting development has helped in dismantling what may be described as the last and most formidable gender barrier. Under its new policy introduced by the Australian government in September 2011, women can join the military in any role they choose --- including combat roles. This was for decades regarded strictly as a male preserve. Thus Australia has now joined three other countries---Israel, Canada and New Zealand in allowing women to join front-line combatants. 

Zarathushti women too have held prominent positions in various fields of their specialization. These trailblazers have now taken up the profession of priestesses in Iran which is welcome news. Close on the heels of this, was the heart-warming news from the Karachi Parsi Anjuman Trust Fund (KPATF) granting equal rights for intermarried Zoroastrians. Let us in India take a cue from them and not ostracize intermarried Parsi women.
Some friends have been categorically told by the President of the Karachi Anjuman that no such "equal" rights are given to women. This news needs to be confirmed in writing by the President himself! And even if correct, all do not have to follow the mistake of some! 

Demographically, the community hangs by a thread due to our fast depleting numbers. Every year, there are far higher number of deaths than births. The writing on the wall is clear, that we are going down a slippery slope. Since the very survival of the community is at stake, we should welcome every child of an intermarried Parsi mother into our fold, especially when the non-Parsi husband is a consenting party.
What? By adding water to milk and diluting both? Do consider that we have survived as a religious community against ALL odds ONLY because we followed our religion, its customs, traditions, rituals and scriptures without altering these!
Today, we live in a world which is in rapid transformation. In India, judicial activism has played a crucial role in socio-economic and cultural transformation. I conclude by quoting from the above judgement of justice Ganguly of the Supreme Court of India which is relevant to our discussion: "With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society, including ours, what was illegitimate in the past may be legitimate today. The concept of legitimacy stems from social consensus, in the shaping of which various social groups play a vital role. Very often, a dominant group loses its primacy over other groups in view of ever-changing socio-economic scenario and the consequential vicissitudes in human relationship. Law takes its own time to articulate such social changes through a process of amendment. That is why in a changing society, law cannot afford to remain static".
Yes, again and again, what is harped upon is the SOCIO-ECONOMIC scenario that needs to be changed in India for women of other communities who are still being discriminated against, set on fire, be subjected to domestic violence and deprived of their economic rights! SHOW one instance where religious reforms are mentioned! Nowhere! Because India gives full freedom to every religion to follow its own mandated disciplines!
Thank you for your time but do NOT get carried away by these high-sounding statements and legal threats! Ahura Mazda is the Best Judge of all! There IS Divine Justice which is immutable and no exceptions are ever made! Such is His Law!
All words in BLUE by Mrs. Pervin Mistry.
All other words by Dr. Homi Dhalla.

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