Saturday

21st Jan 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.

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

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