Editorial: Some swastikas might be bad, but banning them is worse

By By Matt Homer

By Matt Homer

To most in the Western world, the swastika is a symbol of profound hatred. It has been associated with the killing of millions of innocent people and a doctrine of Aryan superiority. Today, its usage in areas outside of the orient generally conveys intentions equally malevolent to those promulgated by the Nazis.

Such is most likely the case with the recent discovery of a swastika found drawn on a dorm bulletin board. This act should serve as a call for concern, but not an excuse for banning the swastika altogether.

To several Eastern religions, the swastika is sacred. For Hindus, it is a symbol reserved for their most sacred places and represents the rays of the sun–which is the source of life. In this way, it could be considered the Hindu equivalent of the Christian cross.

As the Hindu Forum of Britain argued in a recent BBC report (“Hindus Opposing Swastika Ban,” Jan. 17), banning the swastika would be tantamount to eliminating the crucifix because it was used by the Ku Klux Klan.

This argument is part of much larger debate in Europe over Germany’s desire to ban the swastika in all of the European Union’s 27 member nations. A similar attempt to ban the symbol failed in 2005.

At the heart of the issue is where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. Individuals should feel free to express themselves, but not to the point of intimidating others. Still, there are some who find offense with anything that challenges their view of the world.

It’s a difficult line to draw because it requires weighing a person’s intentions and the actual impact of his or her actions on another person. Although it’s quite unlikely the person who drew the swastika on campus did so with warm intentions, it’s impossible to know for sure.

There are minor variations between Nazi swastikas and other versions, but they are similar enough that most would be unable to recognize a difference. If a Hindu swastika were drawn instead of a Nazi one, it’s likely the same chain of events would have occurred.

Another issue to consider is diversity. If the university truly wishes to establish a diverse campus, then it must be open to opinions that differ significantly from the norm and may also be blatantly wrong. This is the dilemma that Europe is trying to resolve with Holocaust deniers. Refusing to believe that such an event occurred is like denying the existence of the sun. Despite its idiocy, the right to such a repugnant belief should not be infringed upon.

Drawing a swastika for hateful and malicious purposes is certainly wrong, but banning its use altogether would be going too far. Fault should lie with the individual’s intentions, not the symbol itself.