Zara, a Spanish fashion chain, pulled a $79 bicycle-and-flowers themed handbag from shelves because of a customer complaint that it also had green swastikas embroidered on it. The bags were made in India and the swastika is a commonly used Hindu symbol. Zara claims the design it originally approved did not have the swastikas. [Reuters]


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  1. dextrone says:

    Well, in Macy’s there was a shirt with a Hindu goddess on it?


  2. RvLeshrac says:

    When are stupid people going to grasp that there’s a difference between these symbols?

    You might as well say that a sphere and a circle are the same thing.

  3. UpsetPanda says:

    @RvLeshrac: Most people are unaware that the swastika was an important hindu symbol. Arguably, regardless of what the hindu symbol means, the swastika has come to symbolize hatred, destruction and tragedy. It doesn’t matter that there are multiple meanings – one of the meanings is of hate and should not be used.

  4. ElizabethD says:

    Ooo, another Nazi symbol treasure hunt for Consumerist readers. Ladies and gentlemen, start your camera phones.

  5. liquisoft says:

    “Zara claims the design it originally approved did not have the swastikas.”

    I’ve worked with fashion companies before, and let me tell that the swastikas were probably on the original design but nobody noticed. Fashion designers tend to be very fast-paced and they probably only glanced at the bag and saw the overall feel of the design, and then approved it.

  6. CoffeeAddict says:

    The handbag looks fine and the “swastika” as they want to call it is a prefectly fine thing in India and Japan it’s only us westerners who haven’t noticed that WWII is over and that symbol is ok. I mean the symbol has been used for hundreds of years, and over sensitive people need to get over themselves and get with the times.

  7. jellycow says:

    @MissJ: Swastikas are old traditional Dharmic religious symbol. Anybody walking by an Asian temple will see it. It’s too bad that Nazis have hijacked the symbol, but your reasoning that people should stop using the symbol is rather faulty. It’s like asking Muslims to stop using the Crescent symbol or Christians to stop using the cross.

    I do agree though that, as a mass market company, you cannot hope to use a symbol like that and educate enough of your customers to make it worth while for you go through with it.

  8. Buran says:

    Boohoohoo, we can’t respect cultural differences and are offended by someone’s good luck symbol! “I’m OFFENDED BECAUSE SOMEONE IS WISHING ME GOOD LUCK!”

    *headdesk repeatedly*

  9. TechnoDestructo says:

    Cultural ignorance on both sides.

  10. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Okay, I’m all for cultural understanding, and yes, the swastika has positive religious meanings and inspires good feelings in many cultures, but — could we maybe be understanding toward the feelings of, I dunno, Jewish people? I don’t think they’re exactly thrilled when you remind them of that whole Nazi thing even if the Holocaust is over.

  11. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @CoffeeAddict: Also, this:

    the “swastika” as they want to call it

    The Sanskrit word for the symbol is svastika, so that is absolutely what it should be called. Germans called it the Hakenkreuz, or broken cross.

  12. synergy says:

    The svastika has been in use since the Stone Age, Neolithic period.

  13. Buran says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: And I don’t think the Hindus are exactly thrilled when their thousands-of-years-old beliefs get repeatedly bashed by ignorant people (not you specifically here, mind).

  14. mac-phisto says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: it’s sad b/c an evil empire bastardized a symbol used throughout the world – commonly to represent life or good fortune. in addition to hindus, some native american tribes were also known to use the symbol (& still do to this day). the kaenkreuz is actually a teutonic symbol known as the “hammer of thor” predating its use by the nazis by over 2000 years – not even by germans (teutons were danish or scandinavian). it is also prolific in architecture – specifically from the late 19th & early 20th century.

    i understand the need to be sympathetic, but should it be to a fault? there’s more history to that symbol than it’s short life on a flag. shall we sacrifice millennia of history for sympathy? i prefer to educate myself so i can distinguish the difference & not see a nazi symbol of hate every time i encounter a symbol that looks like it.

  15. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Buran: I wonder what the people who venerate the swastika (Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Native Americans) think about Westerners’ reactions to it. Obviously there wouldn’t be one uniform reaction among all those people, but I think some would be unnerved by our strong revulsion, and some would understand the reasons for it, and some probably wouldn’t care. It’d be interesting to see how that broke down.

    I do not in any way favor laws such as those in Germany, which forbid the display of the swastika altogether, but I think it’s a good idea not to use it outside of a clearly-understood religious context.


    shall we sacrifice millennia of history for sympathy?

    Mm… actually, I’m going to say yes on that. Those religious and cultural traditions which have used the swastika for millennia have the ultimate right to it, Nazis or no Nazis. Western use of it before the rise of the Third Reich was Orientalist cultural appropriation. Now that we’ve proved we can’t have nice things without associating them with mass murder, we have even less right to it than we did before. Atlantic culture is just going to have to live without the swastika as a decorative emblem, but I think we can manage.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    Sigh, it’s not the same symbol. They’re mirror images of each other. I guess even the Nazis were concerned about intellectual property theft. Heh.

    Another example of over-reacting, ignorant Americans. Sigh.

  17. asherchang says:

    @RvLeshrac: Well, no real aesthetic
    difference, however. The swastika was a popular symbol back in the day
    (the ending of The Great Gatsby mentioned one hanging in an office),
    and Hitler just simply borrowed it.

  18. asherchang says:

    @trai_dep: Both orientations of the swastika were either used interchangeably or together as a dichonomy of passive and active forces.

  19. cde says:

    As trai_dep: said, the “good swastika” and the “bad swastika” are flipped duplicates.

    And the same thing happened with that pokemon card, with the purple bat having a swastika on it. Bandai pulled the card after someone when emo on them eabout it.

  20. @mac-phisto: “i understand the need to be sympathetic, but should it be to a fault?”

    I don’t think it’s “to a fault” when camp survivors are still living. Or when neo-nazis are still marching around using it as a symbol of hate and creating violence against Jews.

    @CumaeanSibyl: “wonder what the people who venerate the swastika (Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Native Americans)”

    I grew up in a large Jewish community that had a very substantial Hindu component, who were mostly fairly recent immigrants. (I’m neither, so I wasn’t personally involved.) What happened was when the Hindus first starting moving to town, the synagogues made the information available to their congregations that Hindu swastikas weren’t Nazi swastikas and that the were very, very old and revered good luck symbols and not to take it as an attack. But many still found it upsetting when it now and then popped up.

    Well, when the Hindu community was still quite young, some of the members pointed out the swastika’s use as a Nazi symbol in the West and how that was its primary interpretation here, and further that they were living in a very Jewish area where the symbol would give enormous pain to many people. So they avoided using it outdoors or in public-relationsy things and substituted other good luck symbols instead. Where it was used in more private settings, if outsiders were present, they typically explained its use. And they were careful to educate THEIR community about it. They simply had no desire to give pain to people who survived a genocide. And the Jewish community had no desire to jump down their throats about an unfortunate similarity of symbols. And the multiple uses of the symbol were actually included in our high school curriculum, partly because of the two local communities with such different meanings attached to it.

    A little mutual sensitivity and understanding goes a long, long way.

  21. Jesse in Japan says:

    Swastikas are used in Japanese maps to indicate Buddhist temples. However, the Japanese swastikas always point counter-clockwise, unlike the clockwise Nazi swastika.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m beginning to understand the rage that moderate & progressive Christians (the majority, although you wouldn’t know it from the media) must feel towards the wacko kid-diddling, power-mad kinds. You hijacked my religion, you bast*rds!! must want to burst out of their chest every few minutes.

  23. Buran says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I don’t agree that we should sacrifice thousands of years of history because of our shortsighted stupidity. People need to acknowledge that there can be more than one meaning to things, and not be so selfish as to assume that their interpretation of something is the only one. Typical Western attitude of closedmindedness (and I sy this as a Western, and as an American disgusted with the overall shortsightedness of our culture).

  24. @trai_dep: Thank you for feeling my pain. :) I want to bitch-slap those people almost CONSTANTLY. They almost make me not like Jesus, and I have two darned degrees in liking Jesus.

    (Although of course shrieking at them really just lowers you to their level in the end. But I’d feel better for at least a while.)

  25. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Buran: The problem is, though, that those thousands of years of history don’t belong to Euro-Americans. The swastika and its long, long history is a product of Asian and Native American cultures and religions. When we got our hands on it, we fucked it all up, either by trivializing it the way we do with so many things from other cultures (“Hey, Madge, I got this neato good luck charm, it’s… I dunno, some kind of Oriental thing”) or by hijacking it it for unholy purposes.

    Bottom line, as I said before: Let the people for whom this symbol has thousands of years of meaning keep it. It’s theirs. Given our history with it, I’d say we shouldn’t be using it — which means, yes, sending back Indian purses that have swastikas on them, because they are responsible enough to use it but we already proved that we aren’t.

  26. infinitysnake says:

    @MissJ: Correction: IS an important Hindu symbol. As well as an important Buddhist symbol.

  27. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    Something to keep in mind is that the various neo-nazi movements are still fond of appropriating various religious and cultural symbols for their own purposes [] . Yours could be next.