The Kippa, the Keffiya, Green and Orange
- 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
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.
The Huffington Post