My Keffiyeh is Not Your Fashion Statement

My Keffiyeh is Not Your Fashion Statement

The Keffiyeh is one of Palestines most iconic symbols. The Palestinian keffiyeh has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, dating back to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the keffiyeh first gained popularity among activists supporting the Palestinians in the occupation by Israel and is an icon of Palestinian solidarity.

As I am a Palestinian I have always taken great pride in wearing my Keffiyeh, especially now that I live outside of the Middle East. My Keffiyeh is way for me to identify as an Arab in a place that I do not call my home. A way for me to feel in tune with my culture, and to show the world my support and solidarity for Palestine. Sadly the same can not be said for many people that chose to wear a Keffiyeh. The keffiyeh has been adopted by many as a popular fashion trend, one that they will wear one season and throw the next. What these people fail to realize is that by wearing these imitations they are not only disrupting a source of income for Palestinians but also denouncing the importance of the Palestinian occupation with these lame imitations. As Nerdeen Kiswani beautifully stated: 

Often when Muslims and Arabs express their solidarity by wearing a keffiyeh we are berated and denounced as inherently violent. Those who do not belong to either group and wear it are either considered terrorist sympathizers or simply chic, hipster, edgy, and even fashion forward. Most do not even know what it means and can easily discard it when it is not in season anymore, while we live with it our entire lives…This cultural appropriation is especially angering because it was simply another fashion trend which people followed because it was in style. A solidarity staple was donned around the necks of people who did not even acknowledge the Palestinian struggle. The sentimental value was ripped to shreds when many stores carried it in different styles and colors.

If you are looking to buy a Keffiyeh that is not a counterfeit, you must ensure that you get it from Palestine. Usually the Keffiyeh’s sold in stores or markets are made in a factory or one of China’s numerous exports. Rather than support a mass production of counterfeits, support the last remaining Keffiyeh factory in Palestine, the Hirbawi factory in Khalil. If you would like to buy an authentic Keffiyeh, support the Hirbawi factory, otherwise refrain from buying or wearing one. 

In reality, what it all comes down to is that a non-Arab can take off the Keffiyeh and go on with their lives. Where as an Arab regardless of whether or not they don the Keffiyeh is still seen as a threat a “terrorist”. The Keffiyeh is not just a scarf that we wear as a fashion statement, it is the scarf that shields us from the perils of war and Western interference. The scarf that embodies what it means to stand in solidarity and fight against injustice. It is the scarf that allows us Arabs to identify as Arab in foreign lands, to make a statement about our beliefs and values. Don’t sully our existence by wearing it around your neck just to stand out.