April 22, 2007

More Problems with Crosses

A while back we noted the objection on the part of some Muslims to the letter X and that of some Jews to the plus sign as too closely resembling the Christian cross. Well, it turns out that there is yet another such controversy.

The government of India recently issued a new design for the two rupee coin. The previous version, which to my eye is more attractive, featured a map of India on the reverse. The new version has a sort of irregularly spaced tic-tac-toe board with four dots in the corners as you can see here.

Photographs of the obverse and reverse of the new Indian 2-rupee coin

According to the Reserve Bank of India, the design represents:

people from all four parts of the country coming together under one banner and identifying with one nation

Some Hindus, especially the "Hindu nationalists" of the Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh parties and the somewhat more moderate Bharatiya Janata party, are objecting to the new design on the grounds that it depicts a Christian cross and thereby promotes Christianity. There is a petition to withdraw the coin. I can't say that the Reserve Bank of India's interpretation leaps out at me, but the resemblence to the Christian cross seems to me to be quite remote. Christian crosses in my experience, do not have two parallel lines in each direction. Nothing like the design on the coin appears in this rather comprehensive list of crosses. The objectors compare the design to the cross on a denier of Louis le Pieux (814-840 C.E.) Indeed, RSS member Ram Madhav is quoted as describing the cross on the 2-rupee coin as an "exact replica" of that on the denier. Actually, the cross on the denier lacks the distinctive double lines of the Indian coin.

Photograph of a denier of Louis le Pieux

The problem with symbols like this that do not form part of a well-defined system is that people will see what they want to see. Interestingly, there appear to be no objections to the new coin from Indian Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Jews, or atheists, all of whom we would expect to be displeased by official support for Christianity.

Posted by Bill Poser at April 22, 2007 04:30 PM