Display of Swastika Causes a Row

May 28, 2015

By Narayan Lakshman at The Hindu

When a ‘Jewish student’ placed a Hindu swastika obtained as a souvenir on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board on March 16, it led to a suspension order and charges, including those relating to disorderly conduct and discrimination, with the possibility of an investigation into ‘hate crimes’.

Following a revocation of the suspension order, the student was reinstated this week to full status at the George Washington University (GWU) after an outcry by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF).

According to FIRE and HAF, the student intended to educate his friends and co-residents about the symbol’s origins, which he learned about during a spring break trip to India, particularly that “although the swastika was appropriated by Nazi Germany, it has an ancient history in many cultures as a symbol of good luck and success.”

“GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany,” said FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn. “It’s ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place — that context is important and there’s much to be learned about the history of the swastika.”

However there were prior incidents too before this one, with reports that GWU’s International House was also the target of an unidentified vandal who drew three swastikas on the walls.

“The University’s actions reflect the facts of this case and the efforts by Hindu organisations to educate campus officials about the sacredness of the Hindu swastika,” said Harsh Voruganti, Esq., HAF Associate Director of Public Policy, who testified on behalf of the student at the disciplinary hearing.

 

Schools: George Washington University Cases: George Washington University: Jewish Student Suspended for Displaying Souvenir Indian Swastika FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project