Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From Kufiya to Islamic Scarf

The Palestinian kufiya is trendy in western boutiques. But even as a fashion accessory, the success story of this symbol of the Palestinian struggle may be unbearable to some people and an “Israeli kufiya” – white and blue, with stars of David on it – has been invented. A “spoliation” of the Palestinian heritage very much criticized in the Arab press, unless one could see it as an indirect and unintentional tribute to the Palestinian national cause.

The kufiya became world-wild known during the 60’, with the rising of the PLO and of their charismatic leader. This picture of Leila Khaled, famous for participating in various hijacking operations, reflects the spirit of that time when the struggle for liberation and national identity went hand in hand with the affirmation of the women’s rights and equality to men.

Well known in the whole Middle East and adopted by the Palestinians as a national symbol at least since the 30’, the kufiya is, according to Fred Halliday (100 myths about the Middle East, p. 13), a kind of ‘invented tradition’ (Eric Hobsbawn) as the pattern associated with Palestinian national identity was designed in an English factory of Manchester in order to be used by the soldiers of the famous Arab Legion!

Whatever origin it may have, a look at this picture of Venezuela’s President Chavez shows that the kufieh has not lost all of its political meaning. But a question remains: is it because the kufiya has become a fashionable accessory sold in the fancy boutiques of the Western World that the Islamic scarf is now so trendy in the Arab countries?

Plenty of comments on the kufiya on Ten Swedenburg's blog.
To read the original and more detailed post in French, follow that link

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