WEIRD NEWS

Swastika Rehabilitation Day Is July 20; Will It Cause Furor?

07/17/2013 08:16 am ET | Updated Jul 17, 2013

A UFO group is convinced it can rehabilitate the image of the swastika no matter what furor it causes.

The group, known as the Raelian International Movement, has declared July 20 as "Swastika Rehabilitation Day," with the goal being taking back the controversial symbol from the Nazis and returning it to its former glory as a symbol of good luck.

Before Adolph Hitler adopted the swastika, the symbol was already thousands of years old, appearing on Hindu and Buddhist temples, in Native American artwork and even in Jewish synagogues in Israel, according to spokesman Thomas Kaenzig.

“It’s been used for thousands of years as a symbol of well being 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,” he told The Huffington Post.

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Saturday's swastika celebration marks the fourth year the Raelians have tried to take back the swastika by holding rallies in various cities around the world.

This year, the Raelians plan swastika celebrations in Africa, Australia, Europe and in U.S. cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami, Pittsburgh and San Antonio.

Last year, the group garnered controversy when tit hired a plane to fly over New York and New Jersey with a banner that equated the Nazi symbol with peace and love.

"It got the attention, so it was a success," Kaenzig told HuffPost after the event.

He promises that the swastika banners will once again be flown over New York and Miami. Although those cities have large Jewish populations, Kaenzig insists the Raelians aren't purposely trying to rile Jewish people.

"You want to educate people," he told HuffPost. "We picked those cities because they are major population areas, not because a lot of Jews live there."

Don Pripstein, president of the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island, isn't sure the group is going about things the right way.

"They may have good intentions, but the image is more powerful than good intentions at this point," he said to the AP. "The image is so horrendous that no matter what their ultimate purpose is, it's extremely negative."

Whatever Kaenzig says about the Raelians only wanting educate about the swastika has to be weighed against their reputation for using provocative means to get attention.

The group's own symbol combines a swastika with a Star of David and it has organized other provocative events such as "Clitoris Awareness Week" and "Go Topless Day."

Are the provocative tactics working? Kaenzig thinks so, and points to a recent question on "Jeopardy" in the category of "Asian Religions" as proof.

The screen showed a photo depicting a swastika on an ancient gateway while Alex Trebek said, “This ancient symbol found in some Asian religions signified only peace, good will and good fortune until the Nazis used it.”

"It's interesting that they used the question on the show," Kaenzig said. "People still need to be educated. We get messages from Jewish people who thank us for letting them know about the real image of the swastika."

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