The Australian state of Victoria is the first to ban Nazi symbols and the swastika

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The Australian state of Victoria, home to Melbourne, on Tuesday passed a law banning the public display of Nazi symbols such as the swastika. It is the first jurisdiction in the country to place restrictions on the swastika, which has been appropriated for use by far-right extremists.

The law comes as Australia faces a spike in ideological extremism. A senior federal police official told a public broadcaster in October that the number of far-right-linked terrorism investigations had increased by 750 percent in about 18 months, although religious extremism still posed a greater threat. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization, a homeland security agency, said in 2019 that around a third of its counter-terrorism investigations involved right-wing extremism. That year, an Australian gunman killed 51 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“One of the most concerning aspects of these surveys is the growing number of young people – mostly young men – who are becoming radicalized,” the agency said last year.

New The law, which takes effect in six months, has punitive measures that could include a prison sentence of up to 12 months, a fine of up to about $15,000, or both. State lawmakers held a hearing last week in which expert witnesses largely agreed on the need to deter extremism, though rights groups such as Liberty Victoria warned that the law should not infringe freedom of expression.

“The Nazi symbol glorifies one of the most heinous ideologies in history – its public display only causes more pain and division,” said state Attorney General Jaclyn Symes.

While a majority of Australians are of European descent, the Asian population is growing rapidly. Immigration has also made it one of the most multicultural countries in the Western world.

Legislators from the other five Australian states — New South Wales, queensland, southern australiaTasmania and Western Australia – have proposed restrictions on the public display of the swastika. Several European countries, including Germany, also have restrictions on Nazi symbols.

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“Australia has a long history of far-right activity, but it has certainly intensified in recent years,” said Charles Sturt University extremism scholar Levi J. West. “The pace has increased dramatically in the post-Christchurch period.”

The new law includes certain exceptions for religious and educational purposes. “Parliament recognizes the continued importance of the swastika as an ancient and auspicious symbol of purity, love, peace and good fortune in the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other religions,” the draft’s authors wrote. of law. The misuse of the swastika is an affront to those worshippers, they added.


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