Swastika Supporters Want Their Wrapping Paper Back
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Swastika Supporters Want Their Wrapping Paper Back

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Not only Nazis love the swastika.

After last week’s national recall of Walgreens wrapping paper containing a subtle (but inadvertent) swastika pattern, a religious group that embraces the swastika as a symbol of peace is protesting the decision.

“We feel outraged by Walgreen’s decision and ask for this gift wrapping paper to be made available again,” wrote Thomas Kaenzig, a member of the international Raelian Movement and the president of an organization known as the ProSwastika Alliance, in a press release.

The Raëlian Movement, which teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials called Elohim, frequently employs the swastika as a symbol of peace.

Indeed, the swastika has a softer side. The controversial sign remains a holy symbol for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, an Indian religion that prescribes nonviolence towards all living beings. Before the symbol was hijacked by Hitler and the Nazis, the Raëlians say, it was revered for thousands of years as a religious symbol and a sign of good will. It can be found worldwide in architectural features and decorative ornamentation.

“It’s unacceptable for us to see a major U.S. retail chain ban this symbol that is so dear to billions around the world,” Kaenzig wrote. The wrapping paper’s pattern bears a strong resemblance to the popular Greek key design.

The Walgreens wrapping paper hysteria follows a wave of Hitler paraphernalia, including Hitler toilet paper, coffee creamer and mugs.

Sears came under fire for selling a ring with the swastika symbol and Zara’s, the clothing retailer, was forced to recall a blue-and-white striped shirt was designed for toddlers that resembled the prison camp garb Jews in Nazi-occupied territory were forced to wear.

All three retailers have recalled the products and apologized to consumers.

editor@jewishweek.org

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