As the beachgoers of Long Island soaked up the Sun last month, their attention was caught by a light aircraft flying above with a flag trailing behind it. On it was a huge swastika and the web address “proswastika.org”. People were outraged. Who was responsible for flaunting this ugly symbol of hate? Neo-Nazis? Pranksters? Neither.
It belonged to Raelians – world’s largest “UFO religion” – and the stunt was part of their pro-swastika campaign aimed at rehabilitating the symbol. They believe Nazis’ hijacking of the Sanskrit peace symbol has been allowed to stand for long.
Before Hitler adopted it in 1920, variations of swastika had been used by civilisations in China, Africa and South Asia since the bronze age.
“As long as we associate swastika with horrors of the Nazi regime, they own it,” argues Thomas Kaenzig, head of the movement. “We want to take it back. The swastika is an ancient symbol of good luck and harmony and is found all over the world.”
Formed in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon – a racing-car journalist turned “messiah” – the Raelians claim to have 70,000 members worldwide. Often considered a cult, they are interested in scientific immortality. This is why their logo is a swastika inside Star of David – swastika represents “infinity in time”, the Star of David “infinity in space”.
Well-intentioned or not, the pro-swastika campaign has succeeded as a publicity stunt. A few days prior to the Long Island stunt, an advert for the movement played on a big screen in Times Square, New York, in which people formed a swastika in a swimming pool. Kaenzig says the message received a mostly positive response.
Guardian News Service