Raelian Movement Will ‘Reclaim’ Swastika At Toronto Pride

Swastika Conservative Toronto mayor Rob Ford won't attend gay pride this year, but the Raelian Movement will.

Kind of like Scientologists, only more progressive and inclusive, the International Raelian Movement believes that Earth's humans were created by another human race, called Elohim, elsewhere in the universe, and jettisoned here to our homeland.

They also believe that the swastika, the once-peaceful symbol used by Nazis during their reign of terror and now incporated into the Raelian's logo, needs to be revived. And they're are taking their message to Toronto pride.

"For religions like Jainism and Buddhism, the swastika represented luck, well-being, harmony and piece," said Raelian spokesperson Diane Brisebois. "When people think of the swastika, they immediately think of the Nazis and we want to change that."

Another spokesperson remarked, "The goal is to return the swastika's true meaning of peace and harmony to this ancient symbol regretfully hijacked by the Nazis."

While I can understand where the Raelians are coming from — it's akin to LGBT people reclaiming "queer" — I think the swastika is so tainted and tarnished that it is beyond all redemption.


  1. Sargon Bighorn says

    The Christian Cross is a tainted symbol too. The “Cross” was a Roman devise used to torture convicts to death if one is to believe the understanding, although some feel the devise was a stake and not a two beam cross. The neo-Judaic sect used it as their symbol and now most people don’t even know of its horrible origin. I don’t think the word “queer” is as tainted, hence it’s easy to reclaim.

  2. Mark says

    Sorry, like the confederate flag, there is way too much association with horror for this symbol to be reclaimed. I don’t care what supporters say, this will ALWAYS first and foremost symbolize man’s inhumanity to man.

  3. BobN says

    In the fullness of time, the swastika should be reclaimed. It belongs to a lot more traditions than the Nazi Reich. On the other hand, reclaiming it from evil to tarnish it with stupidity, as in this case, isn’t something I can get behind.

    Jettisoned, indeed.

  4. Bryan says

    “While I can understand where the Raelians are coming from…”

    Me too. Like Christianists, the Raelians have a completely unsupported fantasy of our species’ origin and are using it to rationalize socially destructive behavior.

    I also understand that because the “inclusive” Railians would happy to have LGBTQ people support their destructive anti-science, anti-knowledge superstition, you’ve drawn a grotesque analogy in semi-support of them, merely because they’re not explicitly anti-gay. Egaads.

    There is no benign superstition. These people are either batshit crazy or pseudo-Scientoligist Elmer Gantrys. Either way, they’re promulgating lies, ignorance, and superstition and deserve to be shunned. The notion that being gay means we have anything in common with these lunatics is as offensive as it is fantastic.

    Good Goddess, man… Being progressives is not about being mush-headed moral relativists who long to clutch every indolent, put-upon self-designated victim and moron to our collective bosom. Can we keep in mind that “discrimination” has some positive connotations – among other things, the ability to tell food from feces?

    After all, you are what you eat.

  5. Brian says

    “Queer” at best had a neutral connotation, and only for a few hundred years before taking on the gay meaning. The swastika was around for thousands of years before the Nazis, and had a positive cultural and religious meaning. It is still used that way in Asia. The trauma associated with the swastika is greater than that associated with “queer”, but I think it’s still salvageable.

  6. says

    I think it’s important that art and language – symbols and words – remain fluid. Appropriation is a very popular method of cultural awareness in the modern world. I played with the idea, too, by making a KKK robe in rainbow fabric (http://songco.org/moreprojects/gaygaygay.shtml). When I wore it at Pride last week, 95% of people laughed and loved it, but there were a few that were confused and angered by how I could use such a ‘charged’ icon – tainted, tarnished, [insert synonym here]. They are totally entitled to their opinion, but it reminded me of individuals who couldn’t understand why the definition of ‘marriage’ should be changed. Marriage has been a prejudiced institution forever, and now we are trying to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex individuals. I don’t know if it’s hypocritical, but if we try to change the definition of one word or symbol, like the word marriage or the symbol of the swastika as it originally came from another culture prior to the Nazis, then images of hate should most definitely be considered for appropriation and reclamation. It may be a slow and steady journey, and something not easily accepted. But just like marriage equality in the coming years, it will become something eventually accepted and understood.

  7. Trey says

    “I think the swastika is so tainted and tarnished that it is beyond all redemption.”

    perfectly said.

  8. ANON IN SO CAL says

    You can twist yourself into any semiotic pretzel imaginable, but irredeemable is irredeemable. Enough with this hideous, heinous “argument.”

  9. Sittaraha says

    For a Hindu I find it hard to display the swastika outside my home yet it is as much as a part of my practice of faith everyday. I believe that we as humans can transform the meaning of anything with our perception.

    swastika: ancient symbol that comes from Sanskrit word svasti (sv = well; asti = is), meaning good fortune, luck and well-being.

  10. MTC says

    I saw these people campaigning at NYC pride but did not realize they were the Raelians. They were petitioning the swastika as a symbol for peace. While I’m usually up for reclaiming something, I think that this symbol is too problematic and negatively charged to ever change.

  11. Brian says

    I think we just need to be geographically clear about this reclaiming business. In Asia, it’s never had nazi connotations and can be found all over Buddhist temples. In the west, it really has only had Nazi connotations. So they’re really not reclaiming anything, it’s never been lost in Asia and it’s never been known in the West as representing anything but nazism.

  12. says

    There existed in Dublin ,up to the sixties, maybe into the seventies, “The Swastica Laundry”……they had their trucks delivering all over. The Swastica was their symbol and was painted on their vans. The laundry had no connection with Germany or the Nazis.
    I believe the company existed in Dublin long before the War……..but the laundry did continue on in business long after the Nazis had been defeated.
    I think it was in the seventies it went out of business or was bought over.
    So the symbol did pre-date the Nazis and survived their abominations.
    Could it survive now ? I think the weight of connotation and reference has overwhelmed and meaning it ever had.

  13. Chaddy says

    Interesting. Interesting. Interesting.

    Never heard of these Raelians until now. Sounds kinda Scientology-ish to me. I don’t know if their spiritual beliefs have anything to do with aliens like the scientologists’ beliefs do, but while reading the above article I couldn’t help but visualing the heading:

    Ladies and Gentle, we have arrived at the 21st century. Behold……… the Gay Canadian Nazis from Outer Space!

  14. Justin L Werner says

    There is no “redemption” for the swastika. There are people alive today who have been through the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust and there is no wiping away the evils of Nazism, and there is no way this symbol will ever evoke anything but loathing. And as far as this other thing? Just what the world needs: another bunch of crazies running around basing their decisions on irrationality. Haven’t we all had our fill of that already?

  15. says

    There is no “redemption” for the Q-word, either. It was never a “neutral” symbol when applied to LGBT folk; what a lie! It always connoted abnormality. Idiotic strategies like adopting “queer” leads directly to greater idiocies like swastika reclamation. It’s amazing, how determined some of us are to sabotage equality! Could the Stonewall generation ever have predicted this treason?

  16. Kevin Norman says

    I’m sorry for those who maintain that the Swastika can never be “reclaimed”, but for millions of Asian people in Asia and all over the world, it has never been lost. It still remains a positive sign of good luck in many communities, and I have taught young Asian girls who carry this name quite happily.

    I’m afraid that this is yet another example of a sweeping value judgement about another culture’s iconography which is based on a European/Jewish/American reaction to an ancient symbol.

    It doesn’t need reclaiming. It has never been lost by the people who invented it and are still using it.

  17. denison says

    You people who think that this symbol is “tarnished” in YOUR eyes are not being reasonable. I doubt any of you have ever been to India, where the symbol completely and totally a part of the the landscape. “Swasti-Snacks,” “Swastik Motors,” etc. THEY are the ones who have been using the symbol since before it was stolen, and in fact consider it a sacred part of more than one of their religions. The arrogance and vanity to declare that we, since we were affected by it in a certain way, can now declare it “out of bounds” seems to be the result of folks never travelingoutside of the US or Europe and feeling that global views should be adjusted to their own prejudices…

  18. peterparker says

    @JEFFREY: Ugh. No one is trying to “redefine marriage”. We are simply demanding that we have the same legal rights as any other American citizen.

    I’m glad that others are pointing out the different ways in which the swastika is seen in parts of the world other than the west. When I visited Inda a few years ago, it quickly became clear that there was no association there between the swastika and the horrors of Nazi Germany. The symbol adorned peoples’ cars, their homes and their places of business. In India, it was clearly a symbol of peace.

    Having said all that, I’m not sure the swastika could be reclaimed here in the west for several more generations. One man, however, is going to even more drastic measures than the Raelians. He has tattooed his body with the swastika in a effort to reclaim the symbol. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDApuEnOCJs

  19. Daniel says

    i agree with brian & kevin norman’s postings 100%. The folks clinging to “there is no redemption in the swastika” or mark’s comment “this will ALWAYS first and foremost symbolize man’s inhumanity to man” need to re-read brian’s & kevin’s & sittahara’s comments again and again until it sinks in!!

  20. PLAINTOM says

    I was raised a small town American and my reaction to a swastika is visceral loathing.

  21. TampaZeke says

    For those of us who are Buddhist, the true meaning of the swastika doesn’t have to be reclaimed because it was never lost. My home alter has a statue of the Buddha with a shining swastika on his chest the way Catholics have statues of the Christ with a bleeding heart.

    I would say that significantly more people think of the swastika as a symbol of luck and harmony than see it as a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man. Just between China and India alone there are 3 billion plus people who know the ancient meaning of the symbol.

  22. JohnAGJ says

    I can see why for Jews and others in the West that the swastika will remain a controversial and even evil symbol, thanks to the Nazis. Yet I was watching an interesting show on Jainism today and this is another Eastern religion wherein the swastika has been a strong part of their traditions for about 3,000 years now. We shouldn’t assume that our views, particularly what may evoke disgust or shock, are universal.

  23. wtf says

    oh stuffed animal, not everyone is as old as you and has the same experience with the word queer. Many of us don’t have a negative experience with the word; get over it. Things change; it’s called evolving. Same with the swastika (which is sure to always be around since the Asian and Indian cultures aren’t the only ones to have it in their history – native Americans do as well) and many other words, symbols and meanings. Things change bitches! Just look at the word bitches! LOL

  24. says

    The insensitivity in this comment thread to the horrors of the Holocaust (which, some here seem to have forgotten, targeted Gay people as well as Jews, gypsies and intellectuals) is quite appalling. Lifting my Stuffed Animal snout in the air, I detect the nauseating scent of anti-Semitism, barely hidden behind cultural competence rhetoric.

    The world is not a monolith, it never has been, and it never will be! We in the West do not live in an Asian culture, and Asian traditions are not widely accepted among us. Some folks here clearly don’t believe it, but Western cultural realities are just as valid as any other.

    What ignorance, to pretend what happened during World War II doesn’t matter! Nazi Germany’s depravity will never be forgotten; the atrocities of that era changed history forever. Ethno-centrism is a kind of prejudice, but reverse ethno-centrism is just as bad, especially where a blood-stained symbol like the swastika is concerned. This is yet another example of Leftist tunnel vision.

    Toronto Pride should never have allowed the Raelians to set up a booth! There is no justification for linking their agenda to our struggle. “Reclaiming” the Nazi emblem, if we are foolish enough to try it, will be even less successful than “reclaiming” the vile Q-word, and far more harmful to our movement. I repeat: The desire of some people to sabotage Gay Rights goals is more fervent than I ever imagined!

  25. bobbyjoe says

    A group could also show up in white robes with giant pointy white hoods and claim they were “reclaiming” the costume as simply a Capriote hat worn by the Nazarenos in Spain. “Hey, everybody,” they could say to the people looking at them in horror as they show up at the next gay pride rally, “why must you think about the Klan every time you see us? We’re just reclaiming this get-up for Spain!”

    Uh… no. Pick a different symbol, dearies. Would you show up in China or Japan waving around a symbol that was really offensive to them because, hey, that symbol was really meaningful to you back home in the West? If you had the slightest cultural sensitivity, I’m guessing not.

    Here in the West and in the USA, the swastika (and the Klan robe) still bring up all sorts of terrible trauma and horrible memories for a lot of folks still alive, so running around shoving those symbols in people’s faces, even if it’s because you personally would delight in their being “reclaimed” (because, well, I guess you could feel kind of nifty saying “hey, look at this groovy symbol of peace I’ve reclaimed” or feel kind of smug about saying “geez, everybody, they don’t have a problem with this in the East, what’s you’re big deal about it”)… well, it probably isn’t all that nice a thing to do, ya know? Even if you feel you’re doing it because of some really, really righteous religious belief where, gosh golly darn it, you just righteously have to have that one particular symbol, and you have to have it now.

    But hey: not only is it religion, where there’s about eighty million other far less loaded symbols for your particular faith, cult, sect, or denomination to choose from, but, ya know what… you can even make up your own! How about a circle with two lines popping out of the top like bunny ears or maybe you could channel Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and put a shoe on the end of a stick. O symbol of Holy Peace… see how easy that is?

    Coincidentally, my church has a very specific symbol of peace that I’m going to share with anyone who walks up and waves a swastika in my face at a GLBT event. And I know this may have a different, much more negative connotation to other people in our society, but my church is simply trying to “reclaim” that symbol as a sweet token of love and peace:

    It’s a closed fist with a raised middle finger. So you show me your “reclaimed” symbol, and I’ll show you ours.

  26. says

    @PeterParker, The definition of marriage isn’t isolated, just like the definition of a symbol. I understand that marriage is a social union between two individuals, no change about that. In terms of Western culture that’s brought up in these comments, and specifically with the United States, the judicial definition of marriage in the US has been between a man and a woman, and that’s what I was targeting in my comment. Before 1967, the American judicial definition of marriage was between a man and a woman of the same race. American citizens demanded equal rights, just like you say in your comment. But in order to have achieved that, I believe the American judicial definition of marriage had to be redefined (which it was), much like it has to be redefined today.

    I think the definition of a symbol is even more tricky. With these comments, it’s easy to see that the there is a social, religious, and cultural definition of the swastika that is evil and one that is good. I don’t know what the American judicial definition of a swastika is, but I don’t think it’s illegal to display a swastika outside your home or on your t-shirt just like it’s not illegal to wear a cross necklace or display an upside down triangle bumper sticker. Changing the judicial laws that govern us and changing the beliefs of individuals are difficult tasks but not impossible. Like the ‘definition’ of marriage, its a personal understanding as to whether or not we want to solidify its meaning as fixed, or allow it to morph into something else, with the understanding that yes, it will probably change again.

  27. Ajai says

    If you look the symbol faces the other direction and is not slanted. That distinguishes it from the Nazi Swastika. I wouldn’t use it for fear of being misinterpreted, but it is different. In India I’ve seen houses decorated with both swastikas and Stars of David.

  28. Justin L Werner says

    I will never see the swastika as anything but a symbol of Nazism and the horrors of WWII. If you have a different view, fine, I am not interested in changing your mind. But expecting me or others like me to change ours on this subject is futile. Not happening.

  29. ratbastard says

    It’s an ancient symbol used in the east especially, LONG before the Nazis hijacked it. Just because Europeans decided to use it for evil purposes in a war resulting in a Jewish holocaust and war that killed 80-100 million people, doesn’t reflect on those elsewhere to whom it is and always has been a symbol of peace.

    Although obviously I wouldn’t expect victims of the Nazis, especially Jews, to embrace it, and wouldn’t blame them for being offended when seing it in public like a pride event.

  30. Rob says

    This isn’t a question of symbolism as much as a question of manners. Good manners suggest you consider other people’s feelings. Miss Manners would say, “when in doubt show respect for Jews.” So would anyone with a history book.

    Balancing this new desire to show a religious symbol against the perception of discourtesy to Jews, there is no question that this is at best inflammatory attention-getting, and at worst a slap in the face to Jews. Hard to say if these people are sinister or just flaky. Not sure it matters- they have no place in public discourse.

    Gays and Jews should stand side by side (the same way the Nazis incinerated us.)

  31. Jeff says

    Doesn’t really matter to me that the swastika is all over Asia, etc. I live in North American among a bunch of descendants of Europeans. We still don’t care much for the swastika here. But if you feel it has to be included in Gay Pride, go for it. Just one more thing that supports the idea that today’s gay pride marches are really just freak shows put on for the ultra-right to prove their point.

  32. Rad says

    Yes, let’s just add the most hated symbol of the 20th century to our community.

    I wholly respect Buddhist beliefs and practices, but… there is a line. I am the product of a generation that went to war against a swastika carrying genocidal maniac. Let’s not forget, too, that Hitler also tried to eradicate the homosexual population.

    I would really question the morality of any organization that would profess love and peace under that symbol.

  33. johnny says

    At least they could change the damn color!

    When anyone in the free world sees a red swastika, it’s automatically Nazi.

  34. Clint says

    It’s all about context. Obviously the swastika represents blessings and a mark of divinity or buddha-hood in some cultures; if one is so stubborn as to be deeply offended when the swastika is used in this way, in this context, that is the problem of the offended, not of the swastika. I’m offended by White Supremacy, not by the swastika. I’m horrified at the Holocaust, not at the swastika. I’m disgusted that the ancient word Indo-European word Aryan has been turned into a word with negative connotations, when it just meant something like “noble” and is found literally as far apart as Ire(Arya)-land and Iran (Aryan). However I do agree that, as of right now in history, there are other symbols that, in the West, would better serve the teachings and blessings of those religions that came from India. We didn’t shoot Nazis out of the sky because they bore the swastika, but because they perverted its meaning, and everything else they came in contact with. I would almost argue that neutralizing the swastika is another step in cleaning up the karmic mess they left behind.

    And anyway, white power swastikas never look like, nor are used in the same way, as Hindu, Buddhist or Jain swastikas. You’d have to be a real dummy not to tell them apart almost immediately.

  35. says

    @ Clint : You could be right…….but I never thought of myself as Aryan…

    But I can’t see some words (queer) or symbols ( swastica) ever being reclaimed…..the weight is against them,.

  36. RedOnTheGreg says

    That’s all we need as a community. Some fringe “religious” group parading around with Swastikas at Pride events, entangling the LGBT community with the swastikas and thus, the Nazis. Hate groups are already trying to associate gays with Nazism, do we really need to help them along? What’s next someone trying to reclaim the acronym NAMBLA?

  37. Yuki says

    I’m pretty sure the Raelians aren’t even correct in this; if my memory isn’t failing me, the symbol meant to represent peace in Asian cultures is a /backward/ swastika, called a manji.

  38. Jan Oberholzer says

    The swastika has been a symbol of well being long before the 20th century and will continue to be so long after. One group of evil people misappropriated it temporarily. Three billion people have always maintained it as a symbol of peace.