Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism


[This article from Newsweek was republished with AHAD comments]


The board members of a small community in northern New York decided last week to keep the area’s controversial “Swastika” name after a visitor proposed a change earlier this summer.

Swastika is an unincorporated area within Black Brook, a small town located in Clinton County. Black Brook’s town supervisor, Jon Douglass, told North Country Public Radio (NCPR) that the board did not think changing the name was necessary because of the term’s meaning prior to its use in Nazi Germany.

The board discussed the name for about five minutes before voting unanimously to keep it, NCPR reported.

Douglass acknowledged that many in the U.S. think of the swastika in terms of its association with white supremacy, but he told NCPR, “I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate.” Douglass pointed to the Hindu and Buddhist religions, both of which have used a version of the swastika icon to represent spirituality. The symbol in Sanskrit that is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism means “well-being,” according to the BBC.

Swastika’s original settlers decided on the name in the 1800s, and those who lived there in the wake of World War II defended the name for its original meaning, Douglass told NCPR. “Some of the residents that were from that area actually fought in World War II and refused to change the name just because Hitler tried to tarnish the meaning of swastika,” he said.

The World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)’s American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) initiative has in recent months argued in favor of differentiating between the swastika used as a “sacred symbol” and the version used by Nazis, known as the Nazi Hakenkreuz. In July, the AHAD encouraged the New York Senate to make the distinction clear while considering a new piece of legislation, which proposed requiring “New York school children be educated regarding the meaning of swastikas and nooses as symbols of hatred and intolerance.”

The proposed legislation would “perpetuate ignorance and promote HinduPhobia in schools across New York state,” AHAD Convener Ajay Shah said in a statement.

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