Six Months to Correct a Century of Misinformation -Swastika, a symbol of purity, was misinterpreted as a Nazi symbol Hakenkreuz!

The Victorian Government has recently passed the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. A Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into anti-vilification protections tabled the report in the Victorian Parliament in September 2021; most recommendations were accepted except one. The Bill has passed in the Victorian Parliament and Royal Assent in June 2022.

In a statement, the Victorian Government said, “Victoria has become the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol in recognition of its role in inciting antisemitism and hate. The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 was passed, which makes it a criminal offence for a person to intentionally display the Nazi symbol (the Hakenkreuz, often referred to as the Nazi swastika) in public.” Source : https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/nazi-hate-symbols-now-banned-victoria

The vital part of the statement, “The Bill recognises the cultural and historical significance of the Swastika for the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other faith communities as an ancient and sacred symbol of peace and good fortune. The Bill does not prohibit the display of the Swastika in such religious and cultural contexts.”

If you read just as lines, it will not probably register the impact and the daunting task ahead for the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and other faith communities living in Victoria. The Swastika is often misunderstood, misinterpreted and miscommunicated as the Nazi symbol Hakenkreuz. Hitler or the Nazis never used the word “Swastika”. Hitler created a symbol inspired by an important symbol of early Christendom and called it Hakenkreuz (“Hooked Cross”).

The first mention of Swastika as Hitler’s symbol of hate comes when Hakenkreuz, instead of the proper English translation of ‘Hooked Cross’, was maliciously translated in 1939 by Irish Priest and journalist James Vincent Murphy. Murphy, one of the early translators of Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf in English, deliberately misinterpreted Swastika, a Sanskrit word, as an English translation of the German word Hakenkreuz. Since then, western media, academicians and the community at large have misinterpreted and referred to Swastika as the Nazi symbol.

While it is not uncommon to use words from the language of origin for translation for words that don’t have any English equivalent, it is nothing short of vilification to use Swastika, a Sanskrit word, instead of the direct English equivalent Hooked Cross.

If you further notice, other German symbols used by Hitler and Nazis at that time for their military emblems and awards, such as “Ritterkreuz, Balkenkreuz, Winkelkreuz & Krummkreuz”, were translated adequately with their English equivalents; “Knight’s Cross, Beam Cross, Angled Cross & Crooked Cross”. But Hooked Cross didn’t make the cut as an English word for Murphy, and his choice was to misinterpret it as Swastika and demonise a Holy symbol of many religions.

Just it makes it clear; Edgar Dugdale, in 1931 was one of the first to complete the first English translation of Mein Kampf. In his translation of Mein Kampf, Edgar Dugdale, who was fluent in German and had done work for the German government, never once used the word Swastika, “Hooked Cross” the actual English translation for Hakenkreuz was used as reference.

Now nearly a century of this malicious misinformation has to be corrected within six months, as the new Victorian legislation will come into effect by then. Clear and thorough education about Swastika needs to be done urgently, so no Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or any other faith community who worships Swastika as their faith symbol will be persecuted due to the misunderstanding between the two symbols.

The Swastika is the core symbol and an integral part of many faiths such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism and has been widely used worldwide for many thousands of years. Whereas Hakenkreuz is the symbol used to represent their hatred and persecution by the monstrous Nazis, the two symbols are worlds apart in their meaning and representation.

There is no doubt any Nazi symbol such as the Hakenkreuz should be banned; there should be no place or representation of hate anywhere; in that context, this Bill is a much needed one for the society. However, all measures should be taken with utmost sincerity to ensure this Bill, while protecting one faith community, should not turn on the other faith communities and persecute them intentionally or unintentionally.

No one should be made to apologise for practising their faith; unfortunately, due to the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Swastika – Hindus, Buddhists and Jains in the western world have been apologetic and even fear displaying or worshipping their auspicious symbol, Swastika. The onus is not just on the Victorian Government to educate the community; yes, they are the primary stakeholders; their communication, as we know from the past, will not be enough. Law enforcement agencies, community volunteers, social workers, politicians, organisations, businesses, members of parliament, councillors, council workers, and all frontline workers should do their part in educating the wider community. Most importantly, the most significant and influential educator “Media” should do their part with sincerity, starting with their own reporters who still refer to Hakenkreuz as Nazi Swastika.

As a community, we need to start educating even our own in some cases on the actual differences, representations and the importance of Swastika. So, the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Australians can be protected from any persecution to follow their faith and allow them to worship in peace.

 

Just remember loudly and clearly, Nazi and Swastika don’t belong in one sentence; they are polar opposites. “Swastika ≠ Hakenkreuz”, Hakenkreuz – Nazi Symbol of Hate! Swastika – Faith Symbol of Well-being!

By Karthik Arasu