Australian state Victoria bans Nazi symbol Hakenkreuz, what it means for Hindus globally?

27th June 2022 – Last week, Victoria became the first Australian state to ban the Nazi hate symbol, Hakenkreuz or the hooked cross.

Displaying the hate symbol in Victoria is now a punishable offence and anyone found in breach may face up to 12 months in prison and fines up to almost AUD 22,000 or both (about CAD 20,000).

In a tweet, Jaclyn Symes, Victoria’s Attorney-General said, “It’s a proud moment to see these important laws pass – it sends the strongest possible message that this vile behaviour won’t be tolerated.”

Victoria’s Premier, Dan Andrews, also applauded the government’s new legislation and said, “In our state, nobody has the right to spread racism, hate or antisemitism”.

Jewish organizations in Australia and worldwide have welcomed this ban. Chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, DvirAbramovich, described the new legislation as a “thunderous blow” to neo-Nazi elements.

It is being reported that New South Wales (NSW) and other states are likely to follow the suit. NSW has already introduced a bill in this regard.

The latest legislation, however, clearly distinguished between the Nazi symbol and religious symbol of Swastika used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jainis. The legislation recognized ‘the continued importance of the swastika as an ancient and auspicious symbol of purity, love, peace and good fortune in Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other religions. The swastika has had immense significance to these faiths for millennia, long before it was misappropriated by the Nazi party and Third Reich in Germany. The misuse of the swastika is an affront and cause of deep regret to people of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions.’

The legislation also noted that ‘the Hakenkreuz became a symbol of the Third Reich, under which heinous crimes were perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people.’

The legislation does not ban the usage of the Swastika for religious purpose and if it is being used in good faith.

What this new legislation means for Hindus in Australia and worldwide?

It is vital to understand what this issue means for Hindus globally. So, let us first answer a basic question.

Is this legislation good? Of course, anything which counters hate speech, antisemitism and religiophobia of any kind is good and needed. Each sane human being must support legislation of this kind.

Secondly, a big round of appreciation to all unsung Australian Hindu community members who worked with their political leaders and policy makers to ensure that ‘Swastika’ does not gets banned.

The legislation has clearly differentiated between Nazi hate symbol ‘Hakenkreuz’ and pious symbol of Swastika. However, the fight for Hindus is far from over.

Mainstream academia, media (including in India) and popular culture do still use the word Swastika interchangeably for Hakenkreuz. This must be challenged.

It is for the community organizations and common Hindu citizens to reach out to their political leaders and engage with local media. An effort is required to educate non-Hindus of the difference between the two symbols. A concerted effort to include this in school curriculum can surely go a long way.

Lastly, it is important to teach small children at homes about the difference between the two symbols.

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