When someone took to Twitter to report a swastika on the hood a car in his neighborhood, the Bellevue Police Department did not hesitate to set the record straight.
"Since living here I've seen ppl parked at spot mean-muggin everyone who goes by. There's kids walking by the house everyday. could be a prank though? Or, somebody getting back at a racist by marking a car?" the Twitter user wrote.
"That is a Hindu symbol, the #Holi holiday starts tomorrow," they wrote back. Millions worldwide, including a temple in Bellevue, will celebrate spring and love in the coming days by throwing colorful powder in the air.
When closely looking at the symbol, there are dots within the lines and it's not tilted, slightly differentiating it from the Nazi swastika.
It looks similar because the swastika is an ancient symbol used in different cultures at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler made it the centerpiece of the Nazi flag. While it's a symbol still used by extremist groups, it's a sacred symbol in Hinduism representing luck and prosperity.
"The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India and Indonesia."
The symbol experienced a resurgence in the late nineteenth century, following extensive archaeological work such as that of the famous German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors. This belief that the “German race” descended from the Aryan race is likely one of the main reasons the Nazi party formally adopted the swastika or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920."
Those who have studied the history of the Swastika note that in cultures where the symbol has been used for religious practices for centuries, it doesn't carry negative connotations there. It's also just one of the nearly two dozen symbols in Hinduism.
As for Wednesday's misunderstanding, it's not the first time in Western Washington -- amid the national political landscape -- for someone to claim racism over wrongly identifying something. Last week, The Seattle Times received a news tip about a Greenwood resident flying a confederate flag. When a reporter went to take a look, it was actually the Norwegian flag.
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