A new video, “King,” featuring rapper Snoop Dogg and Iranian American singer Amitis has raised the ire of the worldwide Parsi community, including the Indian American community, for its use of a faravahar – a winged angel sacred to Zoroastrians – amongst its provocative imagery.
Article by SUNITA SOHRABJI | India West
The video opens with a court scene of bikini-clad women lying about, smoking hookahs. The singer Amitis, fanned by male minions, lies on a couch – with a large faravahar above it – and strokes a cat as she sings the lyrics: Fill it up, don’t stop. You see me on top. Yeah, I’m feeling hot. When a girl has everything, all she wants is a king.”
The hook simply features repetitions of the phrase: “the king.”
Snoop Dogg makes a cameo at the halfway point of the 3:37-minute video. The rapper sits on a throne with a large faravahar above it, smoking dope as he raps: “If you f*** with me, I’ll get you anything. Is that what you really want? I could flip this sh** like a somersault. Step up, let the raw sounds hit your feet. As we move to another heat.”
The video is directed by Los Angeles, Calif.,-based director Alex Ferra. A spokesman for Alex Ferra Productions told India-West he could not comment on the video. Ferra himself was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
Stampede Management, which represents Snoop Dogg, had not returned India-West’s calls for comment at press time. Avang Music, Amitis’ label based in Southern California, also did not return this publication’s calls for comment.
Amitis is believed to be a Persian Zoroastrian.
“Our religious symbology is being used in a disrespectful manner,” Arzan ‘Sam’ Wadia, publisher of “Parsi Khabar,” told India-West. “It is being featured in a video of questionable artistic value,” he added.
“The fravashi represents the good angel. I wear it on a chain around my neck every day. It represents my connection to the Supreme Being,” said Wadia.
The faravahar – also called a farohar or fravashi — is one of the best-known symbols of the Zoroastrian community. Many Parsis – like Wadia – wear the fravashi daily on a chain around their necks; some wear the religious symbol even while they sleep.
“To be used as a prop in a film set demeans fravashi,” stated Wadia, who has launched a petition on change.org, urging the artists to remove the video or to remove the faravahar from its imagery.
The petition, titled: “Respect the sentiments of Zoroastrians,” reads – in part: “Zoroastrians and Parsis the world over worship the Farohar as a religious symbol.
The use of it in a music video is very insensitive towards the religious beliefs of one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world.”
“We would respectfully ask Amitis, Snoop Dogg and their team to remove the video and tender an apology to Zoroastrians worldwide.”
The petition has thus far received over 800 signatures. Signer Armaity Hashkavaei of Australia wrote: “I utterly respect freedom of speech to the extent that it doesn’t endanger another human being’s rights.”
“For me this music video represents a sort of hate speech and even bullying. I believe it must be stopped in favor of multiculturalism,” wrote Hashkavaei.
Cyrus Katrak, of Alexandria, Virginia, wrote: “This is a mockery of our religion and should be ceased immediately.”
A group of Parsis in Kolkata have filed a lawsuit against the artists and director Ferra, demanding that the video be taken down.
But Mumbai writer Murzban Shroff — who faced censorship after the publication of his first collection of short stories, “Breathless in Bombay” – told India-West the video should remain intact.
“The farahavar is used as a backdrop, a motif. There doesn’t seem to be any intention to offend or disrespect the revered symbol,” said Shroff. “Anyone watching it would focus more on the form and execution of the video, without reading foul or ulterior intentions into it.”
“The Parsis have always been known for their broadmindedness and while they have every right to protest, but to insist that the video is pulled out is to subscribe to a brand of rigid fundamentalism inimical to our nature, certainly out of sync with the perception other communities have of us as a liberal and progressive race,” the writer told India-West.
“All art must be viewed in a context, and here the symbol itself is not defiled or denigrated in any way, regardless of how the content might wash with those unused to such forms of expressionism.”
“The farahavar represents the eternal spirit of man and surely that spirit should encompass a broader and wider humanity, make room for other voices, other renditions,” stated Shroff, who battled lawsuits in Mumbai and Tamil Nadu which threatened to censor his work. Both courts ultimately ruled in favor of Shroff.