A small sign identifies the hamlet of Swastika, N.Y. When an outsider suggested the tiny northern hamlet of Swastika should change its name, town supervisors quickly rejected a change.
Ben Rowe/Plattsburgh Press-Republican

Newsweek: Swastika, NY Town Board Votes To Keep Its Name, Cites Use In Hindu, Buddhism – Revised with AHAD Comments

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

https://www.newsweek.com/swastika-ny-town-board-votes-keep-its-name-cites-use-hindu-buddhism-1533386

[This article from Newsweek was republished with AHAD comments]

BY  

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.

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

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

Published in Newsweek on Sept 21, 2020
 

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.

Hindu religious men from the Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan Maninagar, give final touches to a huge piece of folk art, a Rangoli, ahead of Diwali in Ahmedabad on October 24, 2011. This traditional Rangoli is shaped like a swastika, which Hindus believe is a symbol of progress. Last week, a small town in New York voted to keep the name of one of its unincorporated communities, which was named Swastika by its original settlers in the 1800s.

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 promotes HinduPhobia in schools across New York state,” AHAD Convenor Ajay Shah said in a statement.

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The AHAD’s statement went on to say that identifying the differences between swastikas used in religion and the version used by white supremacists was important in embracing cultural diversity.

“To label the Swastika as a symbol of hate would be a grave insult to 1.8 billion Hindus and Buddhists around the world,” the AHAD said. “Maligning this ancient heritage would be a step backwards in promoting interfaith harmony and would lead to increase in hate crimes and Hinduphobia.”

Newsweek reached out to Douglass and the AHAD for comment.

 

swastika2

AHAD Demands that New York State Senate include the Nazi Hakenkreuz and NOT the sacred Swastika in New York school curriculum

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) an initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), has issued the following statement on NY State Senate Bill SS 6648:

NY State Senate Bill SS 06648 sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D) 9TH SENATE DISTRICT and co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Addabbo Jr (D) 15TH SENATE DISTRICT, Alessandra Biaggi (D, WF) 34TH SENATE DISTRICT, John Brooks (D) 8TH SENATE DISTRICT, and  David Carlucci (D) 38TH SENATE DISTRICT has a stated purpose to require that the New York school children be educated regarding the meaning of swastikas and nooses as symbols of hatred and intolerance.

Ajay Shah, Convenor of American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), an initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) said that, “the proposed NY State Sentate Bill SS 06648 requiring instruction regarding symbols of hate to be incorporated into the curricula for grades six through twelve perpetuate ignorance and promotes HinduPhobia in schools across New York state. AHAD pledges to work with other Hindu organizations to ensure that this legislation is modified to remove the references to Swastika.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) working with the VHPA and other Hindu organizations in Washington, DC has produced a brochure titled, “Understanding Swastika, Use and Abuse of a sacred symbol.”  The AJC brochure quotes, the following from Declaration of the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit, held in February 2008, Jerusalem, “The Svastika is an ancient and greatly auspicious symbol of the Hindu tradition. It is inscribed on Hindu temples, ritual altars, entrances, and even account books. A distorted version of this sacred symbol was misappropriated by the Third Reich in Germany, and abused as an emblem under which heinous crimes were perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people. The participants recognize that this symbol is, and has been sacred to Hindus for millennia, long before its misappropriation.” Shah said, “We believe that this brochure in itself is sufficient to remove Swastika from the purported purpose of this legislation.” 

Swastika is considered one of the most sacred symbols by religious traditions that evolved in India (dharmic traditions), including Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh faiths.  The history of the Swastika is over 10,000 years old. It has appeared in several civilizations all throughout the world. From Greece and Rome to the Druids and Celts. Today, the Swastika is an integral part of many cultures including India and East Asian cultures that adhere to Buddhism. It has regularly been donned on Hindu homes, businesses, temples, and other objects. Hindu families gather round to place it in front of their homes for good luck and protection. 

Unfortunately, 10,000 years of a symbol of wellbeing was desecrated by the monstrous regime of Nazi Germany, in the first half of the 20th century. Hitler perverted a symbol of goodness to fuel his agenda of hate. Utsav Chakrabarty, World Hindu Council of America Director of Advocacy and Awareness said, “We acknowledge the horrid way the swastika has been misused and misinterpreted. Even though Hitler never used the word “Swastika”, and instead used the same symbol, calling it Hakenkreuz, for the past 70 years, the Swastika continues to remain a vilified and maligned symbol. This must be corrected. Instead of censoring the symbol, we must celebrate the positive  history of it. We must reclaim it from Hitler and the followers of his hateful ideology. This wrong must be righted.”

To label the Swastika as a symbol of hate would be a grave insult to 1.8 billion Hindus and Buddhists around the world. It would be a grave insult to over 300,000 Hindu New Yorkers who come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and contribute immensely to the community and economy. Today’s political climate demonstrates the importance of diversity and celebrating ones’ heritage. Maligning this ancient heritage would be a step backwards in promoting interfaith harmony and would lead to increase in hate crimes and Hinduphobia.  AHAD demands that the meaning and significance of Swastika be included in the educational curriculum so that the hate crimes against Hindus are not perpetuated.

About AHAD

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) is the first and the most prominent Hindu organization against defamation in the USA.  An initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), AHAD has been actively monitoring mass media, products, public places etc. to ensure respectful and accurate representation of Hindu dharma, culture, images and icons. Active since 1997, hundreds of thousands of Hindus have participated in various advocacy activities led by AHAD.

About World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)

World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in the USA.  Founded in 1970, it has chapters across the country.   VHPA runs educational programs for Hindu children and youth in addition to community service (Seva) activities, and initiatives such as Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC), Hindu Womens’ Network, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective USA (HinduPACT).