Coalition of Hindus of North America

Organization Letter to Senators Regarding Swastika AB2282

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Letter to California senators regarding AB2282

June 20th, 2022

Re: 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 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.” 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.

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 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” – 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 reference to “Nazi Swastika.” If 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 www.cohna.org/swastika or email info@cohna.org.

We urge you to support our simple demands.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

 

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