Student in trouble for posting Hindu swastika

WASHINGTON — A senior law professor at George Washington University is blasting the school for a decision to crack down on a student who posted an image of a Hindu swastika on a bulletin board.

The student, a Jewish man, posted the religious symbol on a bulletin board belonging to his largely-Jewish fraternity on March 16.

University President Steven Knapp issued a statement calling the display “utterly unacceptable.”

The symbol has long been associated with hatred toward Jews, Knapp writes in his statement. And the case has been handed over to D.C. police to be reviewed by the department’s hate crimes unit.

“I think the university’s announcement was quick and overly-harsh,” says John Banzhaf, professor of public interest law at George Washington University.

Banzhaf strongly supports the student.

“Even if he had posted a (Nazi) swastika, since there is no underlying crime, it could not possibly be a hate crime,” says Banzhaf.

The student says the whole incident was a misunderstanding. He claims the symbol he posted was an Hindu symbol representing peace that he brought home from a spring break trip to India.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum “The swastika has an extensive history. It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.”

The symbol is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia.

“Maybe the two sides can simply mutually apologize, and let the student get back to his life,” Banzhaf says.

Meanwhile, the university is still investigating a separate incident of swastikas posted in the same area of campus several weeks ago. In his statement, Knapp writes that those incidents have also been referred to the D.C. police department’s hate crime unit.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up