Press release: Letter to California senators regarding AB2282

Urging California Senate to clearly distinguish between the Nazi symbol of hate and the sacred Swastika

Urging California Senate to clearly distinguish between the Nazi symbol of hate and the sacred Swastika
Urging California Senate to clearly distinguish between the Nazi symbol of hate and the sacred Swastika

Dear Senators,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express opposition and our strong concerns regarding Assembly Bill AB2282 on hate symbols, which is now in the Senate for the vote.

While we thank Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s recent efforts to acknowledge the importance of the Swastika to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, its reference to the term “Nazi Swastika” once again repeats the problematic language of the California Penal code and earlier bills. Indeed, it goes further by stating that the “Nazi Swastika” was the official emblem of the Nazi party. This is not only factually incorrect, it further solidifies the current state of misinformation about this sacred and ancient symbol for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and other indigenous communities worldwide. This false association is also a violation of our religious freedom as well as a major concern for our safety and security.

Let us be clear that we fully support the intention of the bill to combat hate and stamp out bigotry. However, the bill is still flawed because it does not remove the hateful association of Hitler’s symbol – the Hooked Cross – with the Swastika. This runs contrary to claims that its intention is not to criminalize the “Swastika” sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. Worse, it associates our sacred and ancient symbol of good luck, with hate and genocide by saying that the Nazi Hakenkreuz is “…also known as the Nazi Swastika, that was the official emblem of the Nazi party…” and creates the false idea that there is a “good Swastika” and a “bad Swastika.”

The fact is, the Nazis never used the word “Swastika[1].” They called it a “Hakenkreuz.” How “Hakenkreuz” got mistranslated to “Swastika” is an unfortunate chapter of post-WW2 history based on faulty scholarship and media coverage (tweet below).

This bill has a historic opportunity to help correct this mistranslation. It is only appropriate for a state like California to take the lead and set an example for other states by listening to the voices of formerly marginalized minority communities and silenced indigenous groups.

“Swastika” is a Sanskrit word and a symbol of peace, well-being, and prosperity currently used by nearly two billion people and numerous cultures around the world. It is displayed in our temples, monasteries, in our homes, in our sacred art, during our festivals (e.g. Diwali, Holi, Navratri, etc.), during our marriages, and on many other occasions. It has been in continuous use for over ten thousand years.

It is the Nazi hooked cross, and NOT the Swastika, that is used as a symbol of hatred towards Jewish Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and other minorities. A symbol derives its meaning not just from the shape but also from the context. Despite the apparent geometrical similarities between the hooked cross and the Swastika, the two have NOTHING to do with each other and are used in diametrically opposite contexts.

The right action in the legislature will ensure that folks start looking at the context to understand the intent of the symbol when they see it, versus jumping to conclusions based on a false and simplistic understanding.

Misinformation about the Swastika can have real-life consequences. On June 9th, a Bay Area summer camp that usually hosts 900+ kids was shut down and its staff quit because they wrongly attributed the sacred Swastika symbols on the historic Duveneck house as “Nazi Swastikas”[2] [3]forcing the owners to apologize and remove the tiles with these cultural symbols. This is a disturbing reminder of intolerance towards sacred symbols of lesser-known faiths. We are concerned that such instances may repeat due to the wrongful association of the sacred Swastika with the Nazis.

Summary of Our Ask

We, therefore, urge you to modify (or ask the bill’s author to amend) the language of the existing bill as follows:

  • Remove the words “Nazi Swastika.” Instead, use generic words such as “Nazi emblem” or “Nazi hate symbol.”
  • If the bill must refer to the old Penal Code (which contains “Nazi Swastika”), it should add words such as – “incorrectly or falsely known as the Nazi Swastika.”
  • The word “Swastika” should only be used when referring to the sacred symbol used by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
  • For context — The amended bill already inserts some new language with the phrase “…that was the official emblem of the Nazi party” to clarify the reference to “Nazi Swastika.” If a new language can be inserted here, it is also surely possible to clarify things further by adding the words “incorrectly or falsely known as the Nazi Swastika.” – this is a simple demand.

The above will ensure that the bill is more inclusive and doesn’t trigger hate against our religious traditions and symbols. We must all condemn hate – so, let us condemn the Hakenkreuz or the “Nazi Hooked Cross”.

For more information and resources, please visit or email info@cohna.org[4].

We urge you to support our simple demands.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Signatories (as of June 21, 2022)

1. All World Gayatri Pariwar Bay Area, CA
2. American Hindu Federation, CA
3. Aum Spiritual Center, CA
4. Bharat Sevashram Sangha West, CA
5. California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials (CAPEEM), CA
6. Chinmaya Mission San Jose, CA
7. Coalition of Hindus of North America – Bay Area, CA
8. Gayatri Consciousness Center, CA
9. Hindu Americans of San Diego, CA
10. Hindu Society of Inland Empire, CA
11. Hindu Speakers Bureau, CA
12. Hindupedia, CA
13. I Love Sai, CA
14. India Association of Inland Empire, CA
15. Indian Americans of Irvine & Orange County (IAIOC), CA
16. Indic Press, CA
17. Interfaith Shaadi, CA
18. Kerala Hindus of North America (KHNA), CA
19. Kerala Hindus of Northern California Inc, CA
20. Nair Service Society of California, CA
21. Organization of Hindu Malayalee (OHM), CA
22. Overseas Volunteer for a Better India (OVBI), CA
23. Radha Krishna Mandir, CA
24. Shiva Vishnu Temple, CA
25. Shiva Vishnu Temple San Diego, CA
26. Shivaji Maharaj Antarrashtriya Parivaar (SMAP), CA
27. Shri Darshan, CA
28. Shri Mandir of San Diego, CA
29. Sri Siva Kameswari Temple, CA
30. Stanford Hindu Students Council, CA
31. Swara Institute for Music Research and Appreciation, CA
32. UC Davis Hindu Students Council, CA
33. Uttar Pradesh Mandal Of America (UPMA), CA
34. Vaishnav Samaj of Southern California, CA
35. Irvine Hindu Mandir, CA
36. United Indian Americans, CA
37. Jai Center of Southern California, CA
38. Federation of Hindus -Associations, CA
39. Federation of Indian Associations San Diego, CA
40. GOPIO Orange County (global organization of people of Indian origin), CA
41. Hindus in North America, CA
42. San Jose State University Hindu Students Council, CA
43. Sri Satyanarayana Swamy Devasthanam, CA
44. Vedic Cultural and Spiritual Center, CA
45. Hindu Society of Central Florida, FL
46. Networking for Hindu Professionals (NetHP), FL
47. Ambaji USA Shree Shakti Mandir of Atlanta, GA
48. Chinmaya Mission Atlanta, GA
49. Federation of Gujarati Associations (FOGA), GA
50. Federation of Indian-American Associations (FIA) of Georgia, GA
51. Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple Society Inc., GA
52. Hindu Service Foundation, GA
53. Political Indian In America, GA
54. Sardar Patel Foundation of North America, GA
55. Shiv Mandir of Atlanta, GA
56. Siddhi Vinayak Mandir Atlanta , GA
57. Swacch Devalaya, GA
58. United States Hindu Alliance, GA
59. Gokuldham Haveli, GA
60. Chinmaya Mission Chicago, IL
61. Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, IL
62. Karamyogi NFP, IL
63. Nair Service Society of Chicago, IL
64. Niles Community of Asians, IL
65. Bharateeya Temple, IN
66. Indo-American Foundation Boston, MA
67. Rajput Association of North America (RANA) – Boston, MA
68. Mata Darbar, MD
69. AIM for Seva, MI
70. Kerala Hindus of Minnesota (KHMN), MN
71. Sri Saibaba Mandir, MN
72. Hindu Center of Charlotte, NC
73. Arya Samaj of New Jersey, NJ
74. Durga Temple, NJ
75. Federation of Indian Associations NY NJ CT, NJ
76. Govinda Sanskar Center, NJ
77. Hindu American Society of Central New Jersey, NJ
78. ISSO Parsippany, NJ
79. Jersey City Asian Merchant Association, NJ
80. Kanchi Kamakoti Seva Foundation, NJ
81. New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir Inc., NJ
82. River Comics, NJ
83. Sarva Dharma Service Center, NJ
84. Vedic Gurukul, NJ
85. Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), NJ
86. Yoga Vedanta Center, NJ
87. Hindu and Jain Temple of Las Vegas, NV
88. Arya Samaj Long Island, NY
89. Bhavani Shankara Mandir, NY
90. Buddhist Association of the United States, NY
91. Federation of Hindu Mandirs, NY
92. Heiwa Peace and Reconciliation Foundation of New York, NY
93. Hindu Center Inc., NY
94. Hindu Temple of Tristates, NY
95. Hindu Temple Society of the Capital District, NY
96. Indian American International Forum, NY
97. Saraswati Sangam Project, NY
98. Shri Surya Narayan Mandir, NY
99. Shri Vishnu Mandir, NY
100. Tri Devi Sanatan Mandir Inc, NY
101. The Hindu Temple Society of North America (Ganesh Temple), NY
102. Gandhi Memorial Society, OH
103. Indian Women Collaboration Ohio, OH
104. Shiva Vishnu Temple of Greater Cleveland, OH
105. Sree Venkateswara Temple, OH
106. Vallabh Youth Organization (VYO) Columbus, OH
107. Arsha Vidya Pitham, PA
108. Federation of Indian Associations – New England, RI
109. Gujarati Samaj of Eastern Tennessee (GSET), TN
110. Austin Hindu temple, TX
111. Chinmaya Mission Dallas Fort Worth (CMDFW), TX
112. IAsianews, TX
113. Ishwar Sewa Foundation, TX
114. Arya Samaj DC, VA
115. Durga Temple of VA, VA
116. Indo-American Friendship Forum Foundation, WA

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Reference:

[1] WRONGFULLY ACCUSED: THE SWASTIKA IS NOT HITLER’S HAKENKREUZ – CoHNA

[2] Bay Area summer camp abruptly cancels all sessions over swastika controversyJun 9, 2022, SFGATE

[3] Letter to the Community 6/8 – Amazon AWS

[4] SWASTIKA EDUCATION & AWARENESS CAMPAIGN (SEAC) – CoHNA

[5]

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6 COMMENTS

  1. congrats to all associations who came to gether to sign this petition and get the job done. Modi ji shining as a world leader. and the govt taking care of ancient temples and progressing has made many groups very unhappy. Missionary groups are upset as Hindu groups are working to stop conversions of poor hindu families converted Hindus who came to USA with the help of churches have introduced caste as one of the criterion for admission and are targeting Brahmins. Now Hindus are compelled to define them selves as Hindu. good news is new immigrants to USA have realized the value of united Indian amercan group and are reaching out to law makers, contributing money to their campaign and making sure these people wont go anti India.

  2. This needs to be discussed more often in the Hindu community world wide, what ever happens in US usually percolates through other parts of the world. Misinformation and maligning Hindus and Sanatana Dharma keeps happening at academia/political/government level in US.
    Proud of those Hindus and organizations in US who’ve spread awareness and got their local Mandirs to sign in attempt to correct the bill.

  3. Great Job. What is mechanism of spreading this message and for getting additional support and signatures. There are many more Hindu/Indic organizations which support this appeal.

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