Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Hindus oppose German plan for EU swastika ban

Hindus across Europe are joining forces to stop a German-led move to put an EU-wide ban on the Swastika – a 5,000 year-old religious Hindu sign but now more known for being the symbol of the Nazis.

Hindus in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK plan to visit each EU capital, the European Commission and members of the European Parliament to gather support to defy the German move, according to press reports.

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German justice minister Brigitte Zypries earlier this month called for a Europe-wide initiative to tackle right-wing extremism to be put in place and plans to push ahead with the idea using her country's current presidency of the EU.

The initiative could lead to common laws across the bloc making it a crime to deny genocide and display Nazi symbols.

Since its adoption by the Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler, the swastika has been associated with fascism, racism, and the Holocaust in the western world. It is banned in Germany.

Meanwhile, the swastika also remains a symbol of some current Neo-Nazi groups, with the German government - alarmed by a rise in far-right crime at home - now pressing to harmonize the rules for punishing offenders across the EU.

"That's not the fault of the Hindus," said Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), according to AFP. "The Nazi Party started using a Hindu symbol and abused it."

In Hindu tradition, it is one of the religion's most sacred symbols of peace.

"It is almost like saying that the Klu Klux Klan used burning crosses to terrorize black men, so therefore let us ban the cross. How does that sound to you?" questioned Mr Kallidai, according to Reuters.

The forum is writing letters to European commissioners and MEPs to explain that the swastika predates Nazi use by thousands of years.

"We've been using it for peaceful purposes, completely unrelated to the use that the Nazi Party put it to," Mr Kallidai stated.

He said a possible ban on swastikas would be an abuse of human rights: "Hindu ceremonies are never concluded without the swastika, so it's actually discrimination against Hindus, an abuse of human rights."

Laws against denying the holocaust exist in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain.

"Every time we see a swastika symbol in a Jewish cemetery, that of course must be condemned. But when the symbol is used in a Hindu wedding, people should learn to respect that," he said.

German call for EU initiative against right-wing extremism

German justice minister Brigitte Zypries has called for a Europe-wide initiative to tackle right-wing extremism to be put in place and plans to push ahead with the idea using her country's current presidency of the EU.

German Holocaust ban idea meeting resistance

EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini has spoken in favour of a German proposal to criminalise denial of the Holocaust across the 27-member bloc - but the fiercest resistance against such a move comes from Frattini's own country, Italy.

Germany in u-turn on EU swastika ban

Germany has made a u-turn on its plan to criminalise Nazi insignia – such as the Swastika – across the European Union, and will leave it up to the 27 member states whether to punish people who deny the Holocaust.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocation scheme

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

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