Do the Scarf Thing

To many, the dark scarves with the checkerboard pattern that "hip" youth are never caught without these days is just another fashion trend. But to others, it represents something else entirely. The accessory in question is the Palestinian head scarf (keffiyeh). It’s worn around the neck here and sold by the dozens in a plethora of colours at your local Urban Behaviour. Teens and young adults don it as a fashion statement. The earliest adopters wore it as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian people. In the middle east, the keffiyeh is used like a baseball cap here- it keeps out the sun, heat, and that pesky sand. It has no religious, political, or ethnic affiliation."It doesn't mean anything over there", claims Ali, a Pakistani familiar with the garment. It is only because the design is synonimous with that part of the world that it has been adopted by Canadian peace-demanding protesters and supporters of Palestine. Yaser Arafat, the former Palestinian leader, was often identified in the media by his keffiyeh.
In the West, people are divided on whether the garment has any significance at all. A mode of rebellion that was quickly adopted by the mainstream- sounds a lot like grunge. Others tie one on because it looks cool. These are the kids who would wear a KKK shirt if it was in Seventeen. Still others maintain that it is a symbol of support for Pakistan’s efforts. No one seems to realize that wearing a keffiyeh can be seen as misappropriating a differnt culture. The wearer is knowingly or unknowingly using a foreign garment to identify an entire group of people. Can anyone say orientalism? You don’t see a single native rights protestor enveloped in a feather headdress or wearing beaded moccasins everyday because they choose that item to represent native culture.Many ambitious bloggers, however, claim that it is a garment of terrorism.
For over fifty years, Palestinian territory has been occupied by Israeli people. Not only by forces, but families, as well. Yaser rightfully wanted that territory back for his people- and took every opportunity to claim it. Although his tactics have often been deemed extreme and violent, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. An award offered to a man who had yearned all his life to reclaim his people's territory. This isn't how the Israelis see it. Many argue that he was nothing more than a terrorist. This thinking disregards the real effort he made later in his life on reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
With all of the debate around it, we will surely catch more of that familiar scarf. On every street in the city. For a long time to come.

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