LAS VEGAS, NV, June 25, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Displays of swastikas at
various locations in the western world on June 23, World Swastika
Rehabilitation Day, triggered a mixed bag of reactions.
The displays were organized by the International Raelian Movement (IRM)
and representatives from Eastern religions that have favorable views of
the ancient symbol of peace and good will that was hijacked by the
"A majority of the complaints came from the New York - New Jersey area,
where a banner showing a swastika within the Raelian symbol was flown
over Manhattan, the Jersey shore and Long Beach Island," said Raelian
Guide Thomas Kaenzig, coordinator of Swastika Rehabilitation Day. "But
why should this symbol that still signifies peace and good will for
more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, offend people in Manhattan?"
Explaining that the complaints were made largely by members of the
Jewish community, Kaenzig pointed out that restoration of the
swastika's original meaning is overdue.
"Should Buddhists, Hindus and Raelians have to hide this symbol because
another group used it inappropriately 70 years ago and committed
crimes?" he asked. "If so, then shouldn't they also be offended by the
Christian cross? After all, innocent people were executed by fanatical
Christians during the Inquisition and by the Ku Klux Klan. Both used
the cross as their symbol. And what about the atomic bomb victims of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Shouldn't they ban the American flag? The list
of horrific crimes associated with the use of symbols is long, but only
the swastika has been banned."
Kaenzig said negative emotions regarding the swastika by people under
age 70 are obviously linked to cultural indoctrination and education,
not to direct experience.
"It's time people were re-educated to understand the original meaning of
this oldest and most recurrent symbol in the world," he said, adding
that the Raelians and members of other religious groups who organized
the June 23 events did so to inform the public.
"Our hope is that, despite its recent misuse by the Nazis, people will
no longer be offended by what many cultures still consider a benign,
peaceful symbol," he said.
"It's encouraging that we got a good reception where you might think the
symbol would upset people the most - in Tel Aviv, Israel. People there
were quite receptive to our flyers and the display of the old swastikas
in their streets."
Kaenzig explained that many swastikas can still be found in the old
synagogues of Israel, and that Israeli Jews are very aware that the
Jewish people themselves used the swastika as a peaceful symbol before
it was misappropriated by the Nazis.
"The Jewish community on the U.S. East Coast doesn't have the same
awareness as its Israeli counterpart," he said. The fact that New York
Jews found our banner outrageous shows that there is still plenty of
work to be done in that region."
He said the reaction in Karlsruhe, Germany, was also less than
favorable. "We had a large group there, but it was not welcomed by the
authorities," Kaenzig said. "The police clearly stated that signs
displaying swastikas could not be shown at any time in the streets.
Marcel Hoffman, leader of the Raelian Movement in Germany, decided to
challenge that statute by holding pictures of ancient swastikas still
existing in Germany because they predate the Nazi era. The police
decided to charge him, and we hope he will have a chance to defend his
viewpoint in court."
Despite these adverse reactions, others were at least able to see the
point of Swastika Rehabilitation Day, Kaenzig said.
As one New York area reader put it after reading a mainstream media
article about the June 23 display:
"I doubt they were flying the Nazi flag, as you have depicted. They were
surely just flying a plain banner with a swastika on it, which — just
as they say — was for thousands of years a symbol used universally,
including by Jews. Some of the ancient shul mosaics in Eretz Yisroel
have swastikas, and there were seforim printed with swastikas as a
decorative motif. Until the Nazis used it, it had no bad associations.
So now for us it's a painful reminder and we shun it, but if these
people hold it dear, we can't really expect them to keep it in hiding
just to spare our feelings. They want to expose it to sunlight and
demystify it, so it will seem just as innocuous as it was before the
war; I doubt it's possible, but I can't blame them for trying. After
all, would we stop using a mogen dovid if the Japanese had used it as
their symbol instead of the rising sun? "
"That's an excellent question," Kaenzig commented. "Would the Jewish
community have accepted the banning of their symbol if another group
had hijacked it and then committed crimes?" asked Kaenzig. "And what
would the Jewish community do if the Palestinians were to someday ask
the international community to ban the symbol used by their torturers?"
Elsewhere, the June 23 events got a much better reception, according to
"On the U.S. West Coast and in Australia, our flying banner didn't
trigger any complaints that we know of," he said, adding that those
promoting the day on Venice Beach in California were, in fact,
enthusiastically welcomed by locals acquainted with the symbol's
traditional meaning to Buddhists.
SOURCE EGLISE RAELIENNE CANADIENNE
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