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Reclaiming the swastika

by Josh Lipowsky, JTA

July 19, 2013 | 9:34 am

A Raelian discussing his beliefs with a passerby in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by David Shankbone/Wikipedia

A Raelian discussing his beliefs with a passerby in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by David Shankbone/Wikipedia

A swastika banner will fly over New York City and appear in other major cities around the world this Saturday.

No, the Nazis aren’t invading. This Saturday marks the fourth annual World Swastika Rehabilitation Day, organized by the International Raelian Movement. Founded in 1974, the movement claims more than 70,000 members in 104 countries who believe, according to the group’s website, that “thousands of years ago, scientists from another planet came to Earth and created all forms of life, including human beings, whom they created in their own image.”

The name of that alien race, by the way? Elohim.

The swastika features prominently in Raelian imagery, particularly in the religion’s symbol – a swastika interlocking with a Star of David. The swastika stands for infinity in time, while the two triangles making up the star represent infinity in space.

One of the movement’s goals is to reclaim the swastika, which was primarily a symbol of peace and good luck in many Eastern religions prior to the rise of the Nazi party, according to the ProSwastika Alliance. Swastika Reclamation Day events will be held Saturday in New York, Los Angeles, Switzerland, France and Australia. Because of Shabbat, the Raelians will mark the day in Tel Aviv today.

“We want to fully rehabilitate this symbol that’s so dear to billions of people,” said Thomas Kaenzig, Raelian guide and president of the ProSwastika Alliance in a statement. “It’s been used for thousands of years as a symbol of wellbeing and good luck, so when Westerners interpret it as meaning something ugly just because the Nazis used it, our society denies millions of people the right to live their religion freely.”

The character Alan Harper on the CBS show “Two and a Half Men,” after having a Hitler mustache drawn on his face once, commented that it was actually a good look, but “one guy had to ruin it for everyone.” Clearly, Kaenzig and company refuse to accept that.

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