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When thin-skinned Zoroastrians sue Snoop Dogg, we all lose

Members of India’s Parsi community are suing Snoop Dogg and others for featuring a Zoroastrian symbol in a new music video they’ve deemed “insensitive” to their faith. Whatever comes of this baseless lawsuit, free speech will suffer.

Photo by Jason Persse via Flickr

Two weeks ago Zoroastrians in Iraq threatened to sue the Avesta Baby Diaper company for sharing its name with their faith’s holy scriptures.


Faravhar image by Shaahin via Wikimedia Commons

This week Zoroastrians in India are suing American rapper Snoop Dogg and Iranian pop singer Amitis for featuring the Faravahar, that winged-disc symbol most associated with their faith, in a terrible new music video.

I say “terrible” not because the video is “insensitive” to the Zoroastrian faith, as plaintiffs claim, but because it is artistically terrible. From the repetitive meaningless lyrics and beat to Snoop Dogg’s heart-shaped sunglasses, it just sucks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Does the video “demean” the Zoroastrian faith? No more than it demeans men, women and taste. None of these are good reasons to ban the video, as the Parsi Zoroastrian Association of Kolkata demands.

The president of that association, Darayas Jamshed Bapooji, said of the video and lawsuit, “Our heritage should not be looked down upon. We are very proud people, we take pride in our religion and we cannot afford for anyone to do such things.”

If your religion “can’t afford” to be tangentially featured in a run-of-the-mill music video, your religion might have larger problems that need addressing.

Sure, lawsuits are better than violence, but both produce chilling effects that ultimately choke artistic expression and freedom of speech. If artists and activists fear legal headaches or physical attacks every time they consider referencing a faith in their work, many won’t dare.

Screenshot from the music video "King" by Amitis feat. Snoop Dogg.

Screenshot from the music video “King” by Amitis feat. Snoop Dogg.

Snoop Dogg doesn’t burn the Zoroastrian symbol with the end of his blunt or tear it to shreds. It’s just sitting there above his throne and above Amitis’s chaise longue, almost as an afterthought. It’s as benign as a smiley face labeled “Mohammad.”

Whatever the law in Iraq and India, international law doesn’t prohibit defamation of religion, which is already a stretch of a claim given the Faravahar’s treatment here. Put simply, this case is baseless, and those suing should drop it (like it’s hot).

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