Friday, May 30, 2008

The kaffiah - Not "Just a Scarf"

To understand the Dunkin-Donut-Racheal Ray-Kaffiah controversy one must have a minimal understanding of the history, otherwise, the entire matter can easily be portrayed as "it's just a scarf," as many on the left have been doing...knowing full well that most Americans have no clue what the fuss is all about. Political advantage is always on the side of those who appeal to ignorance, so to counter that let's do a tiny history lesson:

The Kaffiah is a scarf that has been culturally associated mostly (but not exclusively) with Sunni-Muslim Arabs of the Middle East, for centuries. It is worn around the neck or as a head covering and until modern times had no political meaning.

By the early 1960's, Arabs living in and around the newly formed state of Israel began to refer to themselves as "Palestinians" and to identify themselves as a separate and distinct national group. Before the creation of Israel in 1948, it was the Jews who called themselves Palestinians and the Arabs referred to themselves simply as "Arabs."

The emerging leader of this new Arab-Palestinian identity was a man named Yasser Arafat and he adopted the traditional Arab Kaffiah as his most visible and symbolic attire... and was almost never seen in public without it.

by the early 1970's Yasser Arafat had already earned the reputation as the worlds foremost pioneer of modern international terrorism... Hostage taking, political hijackings of aircraft, assassinations, bombings and massacres of civilian targets. Yasser Arafat became an international symbol of "Resistance" to the west in general and to Israel specifically. Those who identified with his cause quickly adopted his symbol, the Kaffiah, not merely as a scarf but as a pure political statement of identification with his cause and even his methods.

And because that cause was heavily supported by the Soviet communist regime, it was not long before extreme left-wing terrorist organizations in the West that had little to do with the Palestinian cause also adopted the Kaffiah as well: Italy's Red Brigades, and Germany's Badar Meinhoff gang...etc.... Every leftist violent radical terrorist with a cause soon adopted the Kaffiah as their symbol as well.

Gradually, over time, the Palestinian cause became more socially acceptable in "polite" liberal circles in the West and the Kaffiah came along for the "mainstreaming" ride. It is now marketed to youth as a "hip", fashionable expression of rebellion and resistance against authority... much in the same way that Che Guevara images, and green side bags with a large red star symbolizing Communist, Maoist ideology have become all the rage in Hollywood. Some even market it as "peace" symbols. George Orwell would be proud.

Those who have no knowledge of this history will simply not understand the issue (and sadly, that is most people). They have no way of understanding it or relating to the evil that it has symbolized over the years. That is how media types can refer to the Kaffiah as "just a scarf" with a straight face, or a Che T-shirt as "just a shirt". They simply don't get it. They would actually have to know history to get it and that just might be too much to ask.

Joe Gelman


  1. There was a guy in my workplace until recently who wore a t-shirt to work with the Soviet hammer and sickle on. Overall I think he saw it as some sign of 'non conformity' or something (which is amusing considering everything it stood for was total uniform order and control over every aspect of people's lives). I didn't see him wear a Che T-shirt, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did own one.

    He was in his mid 40s too, so not exactly someone who could be excused as young and ignorant of what that the hammer and sickle symbol loomed over in history. People I know in Russia who lived during Soviet times would have found that guy such a fool. Generally he was an ok guy, but I sensed from various comments on certain issues what his political leanings were going to be and Ichoose not to get involved in that,because it seemed mostly emotion based and too polarised for any worthwhile discussion to occur.

  2. I remember the actress Carman Diez prancing around Peru with a Green side bag sporting a large red star. The poor woman had no idea about the many people who were murdered by a vicious Maoist insurgency in Peru over the years. And she just didn't understand all the strange looks she was getting until someone quietly pointed it out to her. Of course she meant no offence but being a Hollywood airhead, had no idea. She just thought it was cool fashion mixed with some exotic Eastern ideology ...kind of like Buddhism or something.

  3. Yeah it so often seems that it's down to ignorance rather than deliberate. I think it's a kind of laziness from people who are not satisfied with the system they live in now, so they attach themselves to the 'surface' of any alternative that is around,yet not looking into the history of that particular symbol and ideology in 'practice'. Good example there with the Shining Path in Peru.Major Faux pas indeed.

    I think of Islam in the west now. In the west it is sometimes portrayed as a gentle new age alternative 'philosophy'.

    With so many cases of drunken kids,lack of respect towards others,shallow consumer culture fallout,and dissilusionment,the conditions are unfortunately just right for something like Islam to be embraced by many here in Britain as a 'clean living and moral way' solution, when people just look at the surface and not what it means when you embrace the 'whole' thing.

    Most won't look into the deeper aspects of Islam and what it 'really' means when adopted en masse by a nation. As a reaction, we've had Christian leaders here doing their best to smear Islam mainly in an attempt to get people back to the Churches instead. Both are out there trying to get customers and both are trying to hide their own history, and I don't think either can be trusted now.

  4. naif tabari (from tabarius)Sat Nov 15, 01:09:00 AM 2008

    kufiyeh is the right name. i know cause i am of Palestinian origin. It’s something that people in Jordan, Syria and Palestine wear. It comes in different colors red-white, plain white and black-white. In fact the the most accurate kufiyeh is the pure white one. Out of political reasons yaser arrafat made it into white and black (of this i am not sure). But what baffles me is how u managed to link it to terrorism! first off before 1900 Palestine was mostly muslim with a christian minority living together in peace, then came the Zionists and started settling their. Buying of land at first. then after 1917 when they could buy no more they got the british government to help them. Arm them and let them run rampage unchecked. While they quelled the muslims. i say muslims cause the christians tend to be a rather peacefull group untill someone stepps on their tail. And since the majority was muslim they were the ones effected mostly by the zionist violence. (But now that is changing, as the zionists are shoving some towards the Christian minority now)
    the star of david that you people so accept and adore is a pure mark of terrorists. It’s a symbol that all the murderers of the Israeli army wear and take pride in while they kill women and children and the elderly. Sure they do kill some of Palestinian fighters but most of the casualties are the defenseless. But you don’t care about that. Why should u, u r not paid to care about that. This comes to ur pure hate of Muslims(not love of the Zionists). So next time u want to make ur point using history better read the actual history(not make it up). And better read it from more than one source.

  5. could you please refer to academic references to this "history" you are pointing at?
    by references, i mean books.. refereed articles.. academic texts..

    i'm a student working on a term paper.. and i am not allowed to reference blogs..

  6. learn arabic..and get history resources from them..

  7. Islam is a primative, backwards faith, where the believer is a slave to Allah, who must "submit" or die. That is why wherever you go in the Muslim world, you see insecurity, filth, inefeciency, corruption, abuse of women, poverty and ignorance. I have been to many Muslim countries. No wonder so many are trying to hard to move to the West.


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