I have heard many controversies regarding the use of a swastika in the Stack Exchange network. But all the cases I noticed were clearly using a Nazi swastika. To make it clear, swastikas are of different kinds:

Hindu swastika

Hindu swastika

Jain Prateek Chihna (Jainism Symbol)

Jain Prateek Chihna (Jainism Symbol)

The Hachisuka swastika (a family crest used by the Japanese Hachisuka clan).

The Hachisuka swastika

Many many such examples exist for the use of a swastika which existed long before the Nazis.

From Wikipedia

The swastika (also known as the gammadion cross, cross cramponnée, or tetraskelion) (as a character: 卐 or 卍) is an ancient religious symbol that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross, with its four legs bent at 90 degrees. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back to before the 2nd century B.C.

And here are the Nazi swastikas:

Nazi swastika

Nazi swastika

Which are clearly distinguishable. So do we allow the non-tilting religious swastika symbol in profile picture and chat? If not, then why? If they are so easy to distinguish from the Nazi swastika.

Even the SE network has two religious sites (Hinduism and Buddhism) which have symbolic significance of the swastika symbol. And maybe a third one (Jainism) can be live in the future.

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    Similar enough. I can understand those flagging as offensive posts with such images, or asking moderators to reset such avatars. Note that many trolls use them on purpose to offend, thinking that "hey, but it's an innocent swastika!" will be enough to justify their trolling. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:06
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    @ShadowWizard My point is, it's quite easy to distinguish, so why not just get offended when it have bad intention only. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:11
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    The impact of such evil is big. Huge. Can't be measured. True, the swastika is yet another victim, innocent as the rest, but still... I'm afraid it will remain an offensive symbol for many years to come, for millions of people. I'm not one of them (i.e. won't flag myself and not getting offended), but can understand those who are. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 13:15
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    @ShadowWizard I praise you for your view on this but I'm very much in favor to put those images in a spoiler markup >!
    – rene
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:38
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    @ShadowWizard - I've had at least one person claim that they were using the swastika for religious purposes, then I've gone to their "about me" and found a screed praising Hitler. So yeah, trolls have tried to hide behind the religious argument, which further poisons this for other people. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:42
  • @rene on this, I'm afraid I disagree. I used to think this way too, until reading this answer by Robert. What can I say, he's a convincing person! :) Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:51
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    Maybe a compromise could be to be a bit more lenient with the non-nazi symbols on sites like Buddhism and Hinduism, where the connection should be clearer to the userbase, but more strict in its use on other sites? I guess there a big difference between wearing such symbolism on Hinduism or Mi Yodeya. As you can see, the general community is not really comfortable with it, so maybe a per-site comprise would be sufficient, seeing that you seem to be especially concered about sites for Buddhism and Hinduism existing on SE. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 10:01

4 Answers 4


When you say "fag" - some folks going back more than a couple of generations will wonder if you're referring to a cigarette. Colloquially, however, most people will interpret the word as a pejorative allusion to a gay person, usually a man. I don't say "fag" even though it has a prior meaning because I don't want to hurt people's feelings, and I hate the connotation that the word now carries. Heck, even gay once carried a different meaning.

That's what matters here - the colloquial reaction that a word or an image is likely to bring out in folks, and how that feeling influences the experience that they have on our sites.

The Nazis ruined it, for everyone, at least for the foreseeable future. They took lots of things from lots of people, including a once benign and innocuous symbol, and then tainted it much like radiation still taints the grounds at Chernobyl. I don't know if the stigma surrounding the symbol has a half-life.

What we must consider is that most people will see a swastika and immediately associate it with the Nazis and all of the horrible things that they did. Because of them, and that, we simply can't take a chance on allowing it.

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    Almost 1000 years ago, Jews and Muslims were slaughtered in the crusades, under the banner of the Jerusalem Cross. imgur.com/fYSbFrH One could argue that the Christian cross is similar enough to that of the Crusades. Would you say the same for the cross as you do for the swastica, and, either way, why?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 19:28
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    @Tim: I suspect for most people it's a question of ratios of good associations to bad. The Christian cross, in the West, has an enormous weight of positive associations, so the crimes committed under it or its variants don't taint it too much. But, again in the West, there's far more familiarity with Nazi propaganda than Hinduism, Jainism, or obscure Japanese heraldry. So, in a practical sense, it's a question of common associations. Perhaps if there was some continuity of well-known Nazi organization that used the swastika but condemned Hitler's Germany things would be different. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 20:13
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    No, the Christian cross is not generally met with a colloquial reaction similar to that to the swastika and trying to make the argument is really silly. Probably not even back then - except among those unfortunate enough to be, uh, liberated by the Crusaders, I guess
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 22:10
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    To be fair, if you say "fag" in the UK more people will think you're talking about a cigarette than a homosexual. Though, as ever, context is important.
    – eggyal
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 23:16
  • @TimPost Fag is a different thing, because faq word was not associated with any good thing either, it was never the word of believe or faith or anything positive. On the contrary swastika have too much positive associated with it. 2 of the top 4 major religion have it's significance and they are not some small community either. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 6:16
  • @NathanTuggy Hinduisms and Buddhism are not that small religion as ypu supposed. If we even ignore Jainism or some Japaneses community and many such small sects, tribe, religions. Still it have significance for 2 out of 4 top religious groups. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 6:18
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    @AnkitSharma: I'm talking about the West, where yes, many people go their whole lives without knowing even all the major symbols of Hinduism (or Buddhism), never mind the minor ones. (Quick! What does the dove symbolize in Christianity?) But anyone in the West over the age of 10 who does not know about Nazi Germany and their flag is living in denial. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 6:36
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    @NathanTuggy I always considered StackExchange a global site not a western site. We have sites of different religion, topics and interests and now sticking to western believes and enforcing them doesn't looks like a global acceptance. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 6:39
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    @AnkitSharma: Yessss, but. The devs are mostly native English speakers. The company is basically American with some adjuncts. The little injokes in badges and hats and so forth are almost all American. And in practice, if something can reasonably offend a sizeable chunk of the userbase and most of the staff... well, you can imagine. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 6:52
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    @Tim well, it did happen 1000 years ago. Those things do have expiry date, and pretty sure 1000 years from now, the swastika symbol will be "clear" again. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 8:44
  • @NathanTuggy That doesn't sound fair to me, not after we have siet dedicated to this religions Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 9:04
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    @AnkitSharma: Who said it was fair? Having to avoid something perfectly innocent because someone else might take the wrong meaning from it is never especially fair. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 9:10
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    @AnkitSharma I'm sure that on a SE site specifically about a religion that uses the symbol, you are free to use the symbol as is appropriate within the site's and the religion's context.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 10:00
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    Five years later, I wonder if your answer might change? Especially your interpretation of "most people" as the internet continues to erase borders.
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 21:54
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    @LShaver I agree with you. I was literally living in Asia and had been for a decade when I wrote it - I've had to get extra pages put into two passports, and I can tell you, the symbol is loathed nearly everywhere that I've been. But, I agree with your assessment that I should have tried to find a way to promote individuality more. I would support making allowances for the non-nazi Swastika provided that rules lawyers weren't using it as a substitute way to harass people, by using an allowed swastika as a clear prop for the Nazi one.
    – user50049
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 14:28

This is indeed a very delicate subject, and there is no clear cut yes or no.

I think we have to consider a few things: we don't want people to feel deeply offended by something they see. The Nazi swastika is something that deeply offends most users, and therefore is clearly something we shouldn't allow.

The other swastikas are a little difficult: some users can still feel offended, but that is often due to their lack of understanding the swastika actually means something else than they associate it with. I don't feel offended by the non-Nazi swastikas, but if someone does, I, as a user, would remove it. That fits in the be nice policy. As a site I don't think we should disallow the use of non-Nazi swastikas, just because they look like the other one.


The Nazi Swastika was actually based off these other symbols, so of course it's hard to differentiate.

I'd personally love to see the symbol returned to its original meaning, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

According to Wikipedia, German law bans the symbol:

The Swastika as a symbol of the Nazi Party, prohibited in all variants, including mirrored, inverted etc.

The Nazis even used the symbol on its side, instead of diagonally:

Two red Nazi swastika flags
Because their list of awful crimes wasn't going to be long enough, they had to steal a religious symbol and then completely ruin it. In case you needed another reason to hate Nazis...

I don't particularly like having the image in profile pictures because it is very easy to apply it to your account in other communities. This runs the risk of having it taken offensively.

I do think that it is acceptable to have in the "about me" section as long as there's an explanation of what the picture means. As long as the explanation is not "because Nazis" of course.

While I can't determine what's acceptable on those specific religious sites, I think that we need to consider the effects that the symbol has on other sites, especially those with broader global audiences. I don't want anyone getting in trouble, especially legally, over these pictures. (I'm not sure how the laws work exactly, but I think it's best we be careful.)

  • Note that the symbols that are liable to prosecution in Germany include symbols which are so similar as to be mistaken for those named in the Criminal Code. It already suffices to present an image which at a distance of some metres conveys passers-by the impression that it is a swastika. This also applies to slightly modified symbols and insignia which are so similar as to be mistaken for those belonging to the former National Socialist organisations.[source]
    – user271002
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 18:27
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    sidenote: presentation in educational, documentary or similarly innocuous context is exempt from that rule. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 19:23
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    So, if somebody in Germany surfs to this page, is he breaking the law?  (I'm not entirely serious, but partly.) Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 23:48

Years ago, in college, I was at lunch with a couple friends, who before that never met each other. She looked askance at his swastika ring. I asked him "are you Buddhist?" Me knowing it as a non-Nazi symbol as well, but as a way to broach the subject. She was relieved he said yes, that's his Buddhist wedding ring.

A lot of people don't know the alternate origins and meanings. If the only meaning you have is from Nazi Germany, then they will associate you with Nazism. There has been no great push to reclaim the symbol, so in many people's minds it will be Nazi only for a long long time.

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