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Interfaith Coalition Pushes for California Legislation to Separate Nazi Symbols From Hindu Swastikas

A tapestry featuring a Hindu swastika. Photo: Kevin Sullivan / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register via Getty Images file.

August 17, 2022

The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) was proud to be among the two dozen organizations and communal leaders who signed a joint letter sent to California Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg this week advocating for the passage of AB 2282, which would reform California’s penal code in a way that is culturally sensitive to the state’s diverse faith communities.

“AB 2282 will put Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism at parity with other faith groups in California by explicitly acknowledging the swastika as a symbol of peace and permitting its display for religious purposes,” the letter states. “Specifically, AB 2282 would — make California the first state to recognize the Nazi emblem by its correct name, the hakenkreuz, or ‘hooked cross’ in its penal code; make California the first state to recognize the swastika as sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in its penal code; [and] legalize the display of the swastika in California.”

“As an interfaith coalition, we recognize that the swastika — a Sanskrit word literally translated to ‘good existence’ — has been a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism for thousands of years, used in cultural and religious contexts to invoke peace
and prosperity,” the letter explained. “It is often used in daily religious practice, special rites, and displayed in homes, temples, places of business, jewelry, clothing, and art by nearly one billion people across the world. The Nazi Party adopted the hooked cross (hakenkreuz in German) as its emblem in 1920. Nazism is the hateful ideology that is responsible for the killing of millions of Jewish people and other innocents. When translating hateful Nazi propagan from German to English, the hakenkreuz was incorrectly translated as swastika, resulting in the Nazi emblem being mistakenly known as the ‘Nazi swastika’ ever since. These two symbols, their meanings and their uses could not be more different.”

“In criminalizing the swastika, California conflated two symbols with very different meanings and ideologies in its penal code,” the letter went on to point out. “AB 2282 takes the progressive step of correcting this error by acknowledging the practices of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian faith communities and permitting the display of the sacred swastika.”

Read the full letter here.