Hindus in Europe have joined forces against a German proposal to ban the display of the swastika across the European Union, a Hindu leader said.
Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain said the swastika had been a symbol of peace for thousands of years before the Nazis adopted it.
He said a ban on the symbol would discriminate against Hindus.
Germany, holder of the EU presidency, wants to make Holocaust denial and the display of Nazi symbols a crime.
Mr Kallidai said his organisation was writing to European lawmakers to highlight the issue.
The swastika has been around for 5,000 years as a symbol of peace,
Hindu groups in Holland, Belgium and Italy were also involved in the campaign, he said.
“The swastika has been around for 5,000 years as a symbol of peace,” he said. “This is exactly the opposite of how it was used by Hitler.”
He said that while the Nazi implications of the symbol should be condemned, people should respect the Hindu use of the swastika.
“Just because Hitler misused the symbol, abused it and used it to propagate a reign of terror and racism and discrimination, it does not mean that its peaceful use should be banned.”
The group said banning the swastika was equivalent to banning the cross simply because the Ku Klux Klan had used burning crosses.
The swastika is already banned in Germany. A previous attempt to ban it across the EU in early 2005 failed after objections from several governments, including the British.
Germany took over the six-month EU presidency on 1 January.