The Palestinian scarf, or Keffiyeh in Arabic, is now a fashion statement that has swept across North America and Europe. This scarf, which comes in multiple colour schemes and variations, has had a major impact in Western culture and fashion trends. And it is no longer a Muslim or Arab accessory. Celebrities and campus students can often be seen sporting these scarves, and popular chain stores such as Urban Outfitters now sell colourful versions of the Keffiyeh in their stores.
While these scarves are trendy and popular among non-Muslims and people of all faiths and races, the origins and meanings behind them are rarely questioned or brought up. Many people are unaware that the Keffiyeh originated in the Middle East and has evolved into a Palestinian national symbol in its fight for independence. The scarf was originally used to cover the face and eyes from sandstorms and dust in the Middle Eastern deserts, and the red-and-white original Keffiyeh is still widely used throughout Arabic countries today.
However, many say that this ignorance about the symbolism of the Palestinian scarf is a mistake made by Westerners who are blind to the true meanings of its background. Various discussions have circulated labeling these scarves as a “political statement supportive of Islamic terrorism against Israel” and “an indication of the anti-Semitism of the wearer”. Yet others say that this scarf has nothing to do with political or religious beliefs and that it has always been used in the Arab world as practical and traditional headwear. The irony that these scarves come in multiple colours and are very popular among homosexuals, both of which are legally forbidden by Islamic law, is something that also goes unnoticed by almost everyone who wears them. Many people who sport these scarves have very little interest or knowledge of the critical situation in the Middle East, let alone that they represent support for the Palestinian cause.
Regardless of the implications that one believes come with wearing the scarf, the fact is that this is not just a fashion trend that has spread across the world. The Keffiyeh has origins and meaning to many people, and those who decide to buy a Keffiyeh should be educated about the symbolism and statement they are making by wearing one.
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