Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Religion of Peace™ update ... maybe?

If you're in Bombay, I hear there's a good place to get pastries, pizza and salad in the northern suburb of Navi Mumbai — the Hitler's Cross restaurant. In deference to Der Fuehrer, I hope the pizzas are vegetarian.

(UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the restaurant owner decided to change the name. Good. I still think much of what follows stands ... with the caveat that I'm more confident that the owner is a Hindu, or at least a non-Muslim, and that the last couple of grafs refer only to the initial act, and how it might be possible.)

Appearances aside, I really am curious what is the religion of the owner of the Hitler's Cross — named Puneet Sablok (which in my inexpert opinion is probably a Hindu name). I find it curious that no mention is made of this, given that India has the world's largest population of a certain religion that has luxuriated in anti-Semitism and Hitler-love recently. If the owner is a Muslim, that fact is surely relevant. And if he isn't, one would think that the not-unreasonable inference that he might be would make a disavowal appropriate.

Of course, the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol of good luck, and I realize that this makes it hard for Indians to react to it as post-WW2 Europeans do. I'm not saying they should. And if a restaurant in India were called the Good Luck Swastika (or however one says that in Hindi or Bengali or whatever), I'd even tell a Jew taking offense that he'd be wrong to do so. But not when the place has the name "Hitler's Cross" — that don't wash. We also get the owner's pathetic excuse — "It's just to attract people. There is no intention to hurt anyone." Well, the reason the name might attract people is because Hitler is like ... I think, bad or something. And people will (and should) be attracted against that too.

Christopher Hitchens once made an interesting point about the Columbine killers — who supposedly deliberately committed the massacre on Hitler's birthday. That if they were typical American teenagers, Harris and Klebold had little or no real knowledge of who Hitler was — except as a generic symbol of absolute evil, which might be worse than knowing nothing at all. If all you know about a man is that he's evil, that's gonna make him more attractive, not less — or at least perversely fascinating.

Which is why an Indian might see nothing wrong with Hitler's Cross pastry shop and pizzeria — in his nation, he's just a name whose generic badness Indians can acknowledge without drawing conclusions from it. In fact, just for fun, I decided to see if I could Google any restaurants in the West named after Genghis Khan. I could.

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