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Why Not?

Friday, 17 February 2017

Up in (crossed) arms over a religious sign

LOL. It’s no laughing matter. That three-letter signage was emblazoned across the chest of a woman who is suspected of having been part of probably the most high-profile killing ever on Malaysian soil.

The sign was on the covers of almost all newspapers in the country as police hunted (successfully) for two women – call them what you want, femme fatale, kimchi killers or just bumbling bimbos – who had assassinated Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s all-powerful leader Kim Jong-un.

I am told that the T-shirt with that LOL sign is all the rage now. The T-shirt is even going for close to RM4,000 on taoboa.com, an e-bay-like site. Imagine that. A T-shirt worn by a suspected assassin going for that much!

So, what do we do now? Ban such T-shirts? Or just ban LOL altogether?

No, that would just be a knee-jerk reaction. Just like what happened in Penang during Thaipusam last week when a kavadi bearer was stopped and arrested.

His kavadi had what was declared to be the Nazi sign (pic).

Now, we all know the sign the Nazis embraced as their own is the swastika, a Hindu symbol of good fortune.

The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit “su” meaning “well” and “asti” meaning “being”.

It also is considered to be a representation of the sun and is associated with the worship of sun gods in ancient India.

Both Buddhism and Jainism, which were also born in India, accepted the sign as their own.

There are reports of archaeological finds that trace the swastika to other parts of the world, too, some dating back to 12,000 years ago.

In Buddhism, the inverted swastika is found carved on statues on the soles of the Buddha’s feet and on his heart. It is said that it contains Buddha’s mind.

It has even been found in Christianity. In catacombs in Rome, it appears next to the words “Zotiko” which means “Life of Life”. It is also found on other churches in Africa and around the world.

So, how did a good thing become a bad thing? When Hitler borrowed the sign with his misguided notion of a “superior Aryan race” and then went on to kill hundreds of thousands, it became one of the most hated signs on Earth.

But there are differences. Hitler’s swastika is generally slanted at a 45 degree angle and has its arms pointing right. The positive swastika of Hinduism also has its arms pointing right but is straight up and sometime with dots under the arms. It is said to represent Vishnu, one of the trinity in Hinduism, and no statue of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, would be complete without the swastika on his palm as he blesses his devotees.

The Buddhist swastika, on the other hand, is also upright but with arms pointing left.

In Malaysia, underworld gangs have now hijacked the sign. Like in the times of Hitler, a version of the swastika has come to symbolise their gangland activities.

So, the police may have been right in arresting the youths carrying the kavadi. Some of them were students and it is dangerous that students should be involved in such activities.

But to ban it altogether is extreme. And to have the Ma­­laysian Hindu San­gam to agree to such a ban is unthinkable.

It should be the duty of all religious organisations to teach their adherents the right usage of the holy signs.

It cannot be banned just because a group of crazies decided to make it their own. It is for organisations like the Sangam to advise, educate and regulate, not agree to a total ban.

The real swastika belongs to the religious and the good and they should reclaim it, not hand it over on a platter to gangsters.

The gangsters must not win. It is a known fact that stylised versions of the Sanskrit Aum (or Om) are also used by a couple of gangs as their emblem.

Should the Aum, described as the primor­dial sound and one of the holiest signs in the religion, be banned, too? I think not. The religious bodies may want to rethink their positions, too.

  • The writer, who can be reached at raj@thestar.com.my, was probably the first to frown on EPL club crests on kavadis in Penang. Those have now been banned. But religious symbols, too?


Tags / Keywords: whynot lol swastika

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