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June 17, 2008

Another Stupid Protest: Fashion Police

Isn't there anywhere left where I can get a cup of coffee?

Apparently while we were too busy worrying about the dumb people who protest against Starbucks, there was another coffee chain controversy happening. A few weeks ago, Dunkin' Donuts pulled an ad featuring Rachael Ray after complaints that it supported terrorism.

The online advertisement showed Ray wearing a black-and-white scarf that many felt too-closely resembled a keffiyeh (or kaffiyeh), which is a traditional headscarf worn by Arab men. Some people felt that the ad was showing symbolic support for jihad terrorism, so Dunkin' Donuts took it down to avoid "misperception".

This is a traditional keffiyeh:

This is the scarf in question:

Now aside from the fact that it's butt-ugly, there isn't anything even remotely controversial about Ray's scarf. It's not actually a keffiyeh. It appears to be a paisley scarf and frankly, it's more offensive to me just because she looks like a stupid hipster.

Even if it was a traditional keffiyeh, to immediately leap to "terrorist supporter!" is pretty ridiculous. The keffiyeh (or ghutra/shemagh/hatta/etc.) is worn by men throughout the Middle East in a variety of styles. The keffiyeh has somewhat become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and was a trademark of Yasser Arafat, but that still isn't what the keffiyeh means.

Even more so, to jump to the conclusion that a keffiyeh is a symbol of the jihad is just racist. Michelle Malkin (conservative columnist and Fox News contributor, groan) ranted about the Dunkin' Donuts ad on her blog a few times, calling the keffiyeh "hate couture" [Insert eye roll here]. She referred to the keffiyeh as symbolizing "murderous Palestinian jihad" and a "regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos". There's nothing like a totally ethnocentric generalization to stir up the fear mongering.

This whole issue reminds me of shortly after 9/11 when Muslims (and Sikhs for that matter) were being attacked by racists, um, I mean "patriots", just for looking too Muslim and wearing turbans. To associate an entire religion/culture with their extremist minority is ignorant... to do so based simply on an article of clothing is just plain dumb.

Amahl Bishara, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Chicago, responded to Malkin's racism (as part of an article for the AP by Mark Jewell). I think Bishara put it better than I ever could, so I'm just going to quote an excerpt:

I think that a right-wing blogger making an association between a kaffiyeh and terrorism is just an example of how so much of the complexity of Arab culture has been reduced to a very narrow vision of the Arab world on the part of some people in the U.S.

Kaffiyehs are worn every day on the street by Palestinians and other people in the Middle East - by people going to work, going to school, taking care of their families, and just trying to keep warm.

To reduce their meaning to support for terrorism has a tacit racist tone to it.

Honestly, I find Rachael Ray so goddamn annoying that I think I'd sooner boycott Dunkin' Donuts just for using her as their spokesperson, than for any alleged terrorist support. I don't blame Dunkin' for taking the ad down, because who wants controversy when all you're trying to do is push baked goods, but I'm almost disappointed that they even justified this idiocy with a reaction.

(Also, this blog from Katie Halper on 23/6 made me giggle, so I'm including it. So there!)

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NerdyRedneck Rob said...

Only THAT scarf could prevent Rachael from being cute. :)

ditzygirl said...

Wow. I cant believe I hadn't heard about that one until I read your blog. Thank you for pointing out that not only did the scarf not even slightly resemble anything from middle east but the fact that even if it did, the fact that people automatically associate the middle east with terrorism is racism. I am half Iranian and was born and raised in the Oklahoma but after the tragedy on 9/11, it seems to be becoming a socially acceptable form of racism. Thanks for acknowledging the issue.