It's all in the hand.
August 22, 2008 1:57 AM   Subscribe

[pedestrian-filter] According to a news-story in Swedens leading paper, there's a hidden, religious symbol in a ordinary pedestrian sign - a symbol that get's taped over in islamic countries. Calling all pedestrians to verify or falisfy this claim.

According to the article (http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_1585911.svd) the manufacturer of the sign-box for lightning the Walk-sign has explicitly said that the hand is a christian symbol. As such it represents that the "only true way forward is to God and Jesus".

Among the "facts" that followed in the wake of this news-story is that the hand get taped over in islamic countries (where the box gets exported). This would support the claim that the hand indeed is a christian symbol.

So I ask: Has anyone seen a taped over hand at a pedestrian-crossing in a islamic country?

Why would a hand be taped over in a islamic country? Is it prohibited to depict people (as this mefi-question explores)

How does a pedestrian-crossing look in a islamic country (or your neigborhood for that matter)?
posted by Rabarberofficer to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Has anyone seen a taped over hand at a pedestrian-crossing in a islamic country? [...] How does a pedestrian-crossing look in a islamic country (or your neigborhood for that matter)?

In my country things look like this - instead of hands or walk/don't walk we have green walking man and red standing man, while the control panels have the words 'wait' either illuminated or not. There's also typically a beeping sound when it is safe to cross, and a tactile indicator on the bottom of the control panel.

I would have thought an islamic country would simply standardise on a crossing design that was acceptable without modification. That said, if it was prohibited to depict people, my country's designs would also be prohibited.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:31 AM on August 22, 2008


If I remember correctly, the stop signs in Egypt and the surrounding area were the same recognizable red octogon but with a hand face up on it... so I don't think there's an edict banning representations of hands in islamic countries, per se. I suppose this specific gesture must have some cultural connotation....
posted by mateuslee at 2:47 AM on August 22, 2008


This just sounds like something blown out of proportion. Boss of pedestrian crossing company claims their product represents the path to god, swedish press leaps on this as Sweden is secular and presumably everyone in sweden sees these crosswalk signs all the time. A more recent article [swedish] has the designer of the box saying don't be stupid, a finger means press here:
[google translated]But now become Prisma technology information refuting of Kenneth Österlin, the designer behind signallådan. According to him it is not true that pekfingerhanden is a religious symbol. "The pointing finger is a recognized symbol to instruct that we should press of a button," states Kenneth Österlin in a written denial.
So I don't think the hand is a religious symbol, I don't think they have been taped over in islamic countries.
Can't believe I spent 10 minutes on this, posting what I found to save other people time.
posted by samj at 3:14 AM on August 22, 2008


There are certainly cultures where presenting the palmof the hand to someone is considered to mean 'go to the devil'. Or similar.
posted by opsin at 4:11 AM on August 22, 2008


There are certainly cultures where presenting the palm of the hand to someone is considered to mean 'go to the devil'. Or similar.

Or something even more colourful.
posted by Nelsormensch at 5:50 AM on August 22, 2008


The stop sign in Israel uses a hand instead of the internationally recognized "STOP" because apparently the words mean something obscene in hebrew or something to that effect.
posted by JJ86 at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2008


Might it have something to do with this snippet from the Wikipedia article on the Hand of Fatima?

The hamsa is widespread in Arab countries, and is sold in many different forms especially in the marketplaces of Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is often painted on the fronts of homes. Nevertheless, many Arabs, Christian and Muslim, regard this as a superstition. They believe that only God protects them, and the hamsa is tantamount to shirk, or idolatry.

pertinent info bolded for emphasis

The Hand of Fatima, or Hamsa, does resemble the "Don't Walk" symbol...
posted by lekvar at 1:08 PM on August 22, 2008


Hi all,

Thanks for interesting answers. They'll be useful in real-life discussions about the subject.

Lekvar: The hamsa-connection is really interesting. I'll certainly look into it.

Samj: I to (and most of my friends) shrugged our shoulders at the "news" about the pointing hand beeing a potent religious symbol. It was the piece about the hand beeing taped over in islamic countries that made us tick. That was what my original question was about. Sounds as if it's a fig, though.

I mean: a short, un-scientific, study of the pedestrian-boxes in Stockholm, capital of Sweden, shows that roughly half of the hands are taped over. It simply seems to be a convenient place to put ads for rock-bands, parties and such. Probably no religion involved at all.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2008


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