New York and New Jersey beachgoers were confused, dismayed, and horrified to see the image of a plane towing a banner with a pro-swastika-themed message behind it Saturday.
The banner’s imagery promoted the website “proswastika.org,” according to NBC 4 New York. The group behind the message and banner is the second largest UFO religion in the world (after Scientology), known as the International Raelian Movement. The Raelians who sponsored the banner believe that the swastika was originally a symbol for peace, and that it was “hijacked by the Nazis.”
They’re working to rehabilitate the symbol, according to Thomas Kaenzig, the group’s spokesman.
“As long there are people still offended by it, it means we need to continue our work, we need to continue to rehabilitate the symbol,” Kaenzig told NBC 4 New York. And a number of people were indeed offended. Councilman Mark Treyger of Brooklyn said that he was “deeply offended and hurt,” and added that “Try explaining to someone who witnessed their loved ones who were butchered by people under that Nazi symbol that it’s anything but a hateful one.”
The organization’s website features a clickable image that says “Click to find swastikas near you!”
The group is half-right. The swastika as we know it predates the Nazis by thousands of years. It has a wide variety of meanings, but my marvelous Wikipedia U degree tells me that the origin of the term is “svastika,” or स्वस्तिक, and it means “good luck” or “well being” (which closely mirrors my otherwise dismal knowledge of Sanskrit). It emerged as a popular symbol in the west for good luck and prosperity in the 1920s until . . . well, you know the story.
It’s still used today by Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus. None of this, however, changes its ties to the Nazi party. That’s not going away, and frankly, I can’t imagine why a crackpot UFO cult from the 1970s would want to rehabilitate the symbol, anyway.