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The Kippa, the Keffiya, Green and Orange

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  • 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1 1:58 PM
      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.

      The Huffington Post
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