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US varsity mulling ban on Hindu religious symbol swastika

US varsity mulling ban on Hindu religious symbol swastika

The move came after an unidentified student, who is Jewish, returned last month from a trip to India with a swastika image.

Washington: The prestigious George Washington University in Washington is contemplating a ban on swastika, a sacred symbol for Hindus and Buddhists, as authorities believe it resembles the Nazi symbol and may hurt the sensibilities of some Jewish students.

The move came after an unidentified student, who is Jewish, returned last month from a trip to India with a swastika image. He placed it briefly on the bulletin board at his predominantly Jewish fraternity's residence hall.

One fraternity member who saw the swastika on the bulletin board thought it was some kind of threat and informed police.

Everything was sorted out in a few hours after the complaining student realised that there was no threat. Police quickly closed their investigation.

However, the student who placed the symbol on the bulletin board now faces permanent expulsion, local media reported.

Steven Knapp, president of the George Washington University, said in a statement that the intentions behind the on-campus Nazi motif will not affect his determination to call it a hate crime.

"While the student claims his act was not an expression of hatred, the university is referring the matter for review by its Hate Crimes Unit," Knapp said.

John Banzhaf, a famed public interest law professor at the George Washington University Law School, has taken up the cause of the embattled Jewish student.

If the student suffers expulsion or any kind of discipline, the effect will be to ban a sacred religious symbol from the George Washington campus, Banzhaf said. University officials have "seemingly taken the position that posting anything which could be mistaken for a Nazi swastika" is prohibited, he argued "even by students who are Hindus or Buddhists."

first published:April 24, 2015, 17:31 IST