Jun 01 2008

The Kippa, the Keffiya, Green and Orange

Published by at 11:53 pm under Articles,Personal

published in the Huffington post

The Kippa, the Keffiya, Green and Orange
by Daoud Kuttab

Upon arriving for my freshman orientation at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania back in 1971, I was asked to wear a cardboard beanie. Having just come from Jerusalem I was rather upset at having to wear that head covering. The beanie that I was given looked very much like the kippa that Jewish settlers wear in the occupied Palestinian territories. I later discovered that there was no connection between the two head coverings. Since then I have seen that small rounded item put on the head on different individuals include the Catholic Pope and the Anglican Bishop.

I thought about the beanie this week as the right wing bloggers and even some misguided liberals mercilessness attacked Dunkin’ Donuts for featuring Rachael Ray wearing a scarf that looked like the keffiya, the Arab head dress.

For the record, the keffiya is not a symbol of either Islam or terrorism and predate Yasser Arafat. The head dress (which comes in white, checkered black or checkered red) came into importance in the early 20th century as part of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans who ruled the Middle East for over four hundred years left a two class system of landlords and peasants. The landlords generally wore a red high hat regularly referred to as a tarbouch or fez. Peasants wore the keffiya as a practical head cover to protect from the hot sun in the daytime and the cold winds at nights.

Once the Ottomans began to loose power sympathy with peasants and the average people took the symbolism of the keffiya.

Visit any rural Arab areas or the traditional Bedouins and you will see them dressed in one color or another of the keffiya. In 70s Europe, the keffiya became a fashion symbol as part of a general sympathy with university students around the world taking on power structures. It is true that Palestinian guerillas and Yasser Arafat took on the keffiya (the latter more to cover his bald head) making it a symbol of people’s liberation in the same way as the Che Guevara t-shirts came to reflect a particular left wing political leaning but certainly not symbolic of terrorism or Islam. Turning a centuries old symbol of a proud people into a claim of terrorism is unacceptable to the millions of people around the world who proudly wear the keffiya.

Much to the surprise of environmentalists, green is the symbolic color of Islamists. The autocratic leader of Libya Muaamar Qadafi calls his unique revolution the green revolution in which he mixes Islam with his form of populism. The country’s flag is only one color green. Jewish settlers opposed to the withdrawal from Gaza waved orange flags.

I hope that green continues to be the color of environmentalists and I am certainly not willing to allow the right wing Jewish settlers to hijack the color of orange. What I hope is that bloggers and others rethink their opposition to the Rachael Ray scarf.

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