On May 25 (local time), Hindu organisations and activists in Australia, including the Hindu Council of Australia, Australian Hindu Association Inc. and others, raised objections over Queensland MP Annastacia Palaszczuk’s proposal to ban ‘the public display of hate symbols such as swastikas’. After MP Palaszczuk announced the proposal, the Hindus strongly objected to it and urged the MP to change the language of the proposal.
Objecting to the proposal to include Swastika in hate symbols, the Hindu Council of Australia issued a press release dated May 26. They pointed out that while the Council stands with the authorities and communities to ban the hate symbols, it “strongly opposes the prohibition or criminalisation of our ancient, auspicious and holy symbol, the Swastika.”
They further added that it was disappointing that MP referred to the Nazi symbol as Swastika and not as “Hakenkreuz” or the Hooked Cross.
“Hindu Council of Australia stands united with the Queensland Government and the Jewish community to promote the important work of fighting anti-Semitism and other racist and exclusionary ideologies and wholeheartedly supports a prohibition on the Nazi hate symbols. However, the Hindu Council of Australia strongly opposes the prohibition or criminalisation of our ancient, auspicious and holy symbol, the Swastika,” the statement said.
They said, “The intention of bringing this legislation conflates, prohibits, and criminalises the display of the ancient Hindu symbol Swastika. The prohibition and use of the word ‘swastika’ prejudice our benevolent practices. The Swastika pre-dates, by millennia, the hateful use of Hakenkreuz by the Nazis.”
The Council further urged the MP to publicly clarify that prohibition would be limited to the Nazi hate symbol ‘Hakenkreuz’ and NOT the holy Swastika. It also urged adding an exemption to the prohibition by the Queensland Parliament for the use of the Swastika as a cultural and religious symbol. The Council requested the Parliament of Queensland to work with them and support a “multi-lingual awareness campaign about the original, positive meaning of the (ancient) Swastika and to counter any prejudicial misunderstanding that can lead to discrimination and criminal offence.”
A similar request was made by the Australian Hindu Association Inc. In the press release, the organisation said though they welcomed the decision to prohibit the use of Nazi symbols, it was “incorrect and offensive to Hindus to describe the Nazi Hakenkreuz as Swastika.” The organisation further explained the difference between the two symbols using graphics. It added, “The Queensland government must consult with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain organisations, including the AHA, before tabling the proposed legislation.”
The letter added, “Before any Nazi hate legislation comes into force, it is imperative that the Queensland government educates Queensland politicians, media, police and the general public about the difference between the Swastika and the Hakenkreuz.”
Speaking to OpIndia, Australian barrister andAustralian Hindu Association President Amendra Singh said, “Unfortunately, there is widespread ignorance amongst Australian politicians and media on this issue. You recently had the Queensland Premier tweeting (now deleted) that her government would ban swastikas.”
“Such ignorant and insensitive representation of Hindu symbols will continue so long as these people obtain their information from elites who have no understanding of our culture or sensitivities. Australian decision-makers need to take a close and hard look at who they rely on for advice on Hindu issues; and who they invite on committees that advise them.
This would never have happened if they had spoken to a single ordinary Hindu,” he added.
Queensland MP issued a clarification
After the backlash, Queensland MP Palaszczuk issued a clarification and said, “Important to note that we know these symbols have profound meaning in some religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The new laws will allow symbols to be used in these respectful circumstances but prevent them from being used as a symbol of hate.”
She also changed the language of her Facebook post and removed the word “Swastika”. The bill will be introduced in the second half of the year.
In the meanwhile, Queensland’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Leanne Linard also clarified it further by saying that the new laws would not apply to those practising Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism, for whom the swastika is used as a religious symbol – where its use predates its adoption by the Nazis by centuries.
“We know that swastika symbols have a profound meaning in some religions. The new laws will allow these symbols to be used in these respectful circumstances but prevent them from being used as a symbol of hate,” the minister said.
Victoria introduces bill to ban Nazi symbols but exempts Swastika
In a similar legislation introduced earlier this month, the state of Victoria in Australia is also planned to ban hate symbols including the Nazi hooked cross. However, the bill recognised the difference between the Nazi Hakenkreuz and the religious symbol Swastika from the beginning, and said it will be allowed. The legislation says that it will come in to effect one year later to allow for a community education campaign to raise awareness of the origins of the religious and cultural swastika, its importance to the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain communities and its distinction from the Nazi symbol. later,
California proposed an amendment to differentiate between peaceful Hindu Swastika and Nazi Hakenkreuz
On May 23, California Legislative Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan read Assembly Bill 2282 for the second time with specific amendments that would differentiate between peaceful Hindu Swastika and Nazi Hakenkreuz. Once the bill is passed by the Assembly, it would decriminalise the Hindu Swastika.
Notably, Hindu American Foundation has been extensively working on educating the general public as well as the lawmakers about the difference between the Nazi Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) and the Hindu holy symbol Swastika. In a tweet, the organisation wrote, “California Legislative Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan responds to education efforts of Hindu American Foundation and California Dharma communities to amend #AB2282 & decriminalise the Hindu Swastika!”
Canadian MP called for differentiating Nazi Hakenkreuz and Swastika
On March 1, Chandra Arya, an Indian origin member of the Canadian Parliament, issued a speech calling upon the members of the house and all Canadians to distinguish between the Hindu religious sacred symbol Swastika and the Nazi symbol Hakenkreuz.