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GWU's Attack on Religious Symbol Causes International Controversy
Should Ban Be Extended to Also Include Jewish Star?, Websites Ask Sarcastically
Several major Indian websites - including the Times of India, ummid.com, punjab.com, TheLiveMirror.com, Indian Diaspora, Press Trust of India, and others - have all reported on the controversy, and the events which led up to the University publicly characterizing such symbols as a "symbols of hatred."
The symbols - sometimes called svastikas - can unfortunately be confused with the Nazi swastika, although they are different in color, proportion, orientation, etc. from that dreaded image.
The controversy has also spread to Canada where, as the Indian Diaspora put it in an article entitled "George Washington U’s blinkered view of Svastika," "The religious symbol Svastika is at the centre of a row between students and the George Washington University . . . The matter is now a subject of a formal hearing by the university management, and has caused disquiet in the Indian community here. . . . Prakash Mody, one of the leaders of the Jain community in Toronto, is 'unhappy at the stand of the George Washington University about banning religious symbols from campus.'”
Interestingly, there was a similar episode in Canada recently when Mody "filed a complaint with the Ontario Press Council against the Toronto Star newspaper for asserting that the Jain/Hindu Svastika was akin to the Nazi symbol. Mody’s complaint was upheld by the Press Council."
It also appears that the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington [IFC], a well respected organization made up of many religious leaders from a variety of countries, is also concerned, since it recently referred to this matter on its Twitter account.
The justification that GWU cited for taking such harsh action - that the symbol "has acquired an intrinsically anti-Semitic meaning . . . associated with genocide" - has shocked and outraged many religious leaders, and is now even being ridiculed on several websites.
If an Indian svastika can be banned because some might mistake it for the hated Nazi swastika, shouldn't GWU also ban the Jewish Star of David which could be mistaken for a pentagram, a sign of devil worship and human sacrifice, asked several websites, including ValueWalk.
Ironically, there is precedent - although perhaps somewhat bizarre precedent - for doing just that, as reported in a Daily Caller piece entitled "George Washington U. Emulates Satan-Fearing West Texas School District With Religious Symbol Ban." It noted that Lubbock, Texas, did in fact ban the display by students of the Jewish Star of David because, it reasoned, the Jewish symbol could be mistaken for the "`Seal Solomon,' . . . one of the most powerful symbols in the Occult."
Using the same dubious reasoning, they also banned the peace symbol because "this symbol represents peace in the early 60s, but now, among the Heavy Metal and Occult groups, signifies the ‘Cross of Neri.’" However, these Texas efforts were apparently greeted with ridicule, derision, and scorn - a fate which may well also befall GWU's recent activities, suggests Banzhaf.
It makes as much sense for a university to ban an ancient religious symbol which is sacred to several of the world's religious, just because it could be mistaken for a 20th century Nazi swastika, as it would to ban the word "niggardly" just because it might be misunderstood as a racial insult, says Banzhaf.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052, USA
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