Friday, December 30, 2011

Tahrir/Cabinet Kufiyas

Here are some Egypt kufiyas, that date from the events around Tahrir and the Cabinet offices, around the weekend of December 16-18, when Egyptian military and security forces killed 17 protesters and wounded over 500. I have lost track of where I originally found all these photos, but I've given the photographers, or at least the agency, where available.

Ahmed Ali/AP

I believe this kid was one of the youngsters arrested. If I can find more info about him I will post it later. I worry about what happened to him.

Associated Press

This is one of the better-known photos of the events around the Cabinet sit-in, a photo of one of the several women who were badly brutalized by the military police, who appear to love to wield their long batons in a sadistic manner.

Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

I love this photo. One of the protesters, with his improvised head protector, takes a moment to read the Qur'an.

Dia/Associated Press

One of the many wounded revolutionaries, helped by a kufiya-clad comrade.

Ali al-Malky

These are protesters saving documents from the library of  L'institut d'Egypte, which burned to the ground. The source is al-Masry al-Youm, where you can read about this calamitous event.

Rana Khazbak

This is a photo Sheikh Emad Eddin Effat, secretary general of Dar al-Iftaa, the body that issues Islamic fatwas (edicts), and one of the most famous martyrs of the protests, killed by a bullet to the chest on December 16. According to al-Masry al-Youm, Effat was considered one of Al-Azhar's moderate and progressive sheikhs. Effat's final fatwa forbade voting for parliamentary candidates affiliated with the Mubarak regime and former members of the dissolved National Democratic Party, who are known colloquially as the feloul. Effat based his ruling on the fact that regime remnants aspire to subvert Egypt’s post-revolutionary future through bribery and patronage.

Monday, December 26, 2011

American Eagle Kufiyas on Times Square

Thanks to Nazli for alerting me to this, and sending me these photos, taken off the huge screens at Times Square, just a few days ago. I assume the screens are from the "77kids NYC Style Lab" that occupies the entire lower level of the American Eagle Outfitters' Times Square flagship at 1551 Broadway, which opened on July 20.

Yep, kufiyas go kid fashion. Kufiyas at the center of US commercial/popular culture. Is American Eagle trying to feed off of the incredible energy of the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring? Is American Eagle trying to co-opt and market street fashion affiliated with the top news stories of the year? You betcha. And will this stop activists around the world from wearing their kufiyas? Hardly.

Here is the ad for the 77kids line, that is up right now on the American Eagle 77kids website. Funnily enough, although the kufiya is featured in the ads, I can't find it for sale as an accessory, either for boys or for girls. Hmmm.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

another Tahrir kufiya, and election analysis

Monique Jaques/Corbis

Happy holidays. I've been collecting items to post, including lots of kufiyas from recent events in Egypt, but have fallen behind. I hope to finish up before the 1st of the year, before I have to make a new set of New Years' resolutions. Meanwhile, here's one, the photo that accompanies a very fine analysis of the Egyptian elections, by Yasmine El Rashidi, from the New York Review of Books. The title, "Egypt on the Edge," suggests a lot of danger ahead, but El Rashidi's tone is not, in fact, overly alarmist. But it is sobering. A few good suggestions as to why the Salafist Al-Nour party has done so well to date. One: a miscalculation by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has often shifted its position from supporting the revolution to wanting to clear out Tahrir Square for the sake of winning elections. El Rashidi suggests that this lost the Brothers some support in popular quarters. The Salafists, by contrast, were seen as straight shooters. Another miscalculation was by the "liberals," and particularly by telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris and founder of the Free Egyptians Party, who tweeted a cartoon with a Minnie Mouse in face veil and a Micky Mouse in full beard, suggesting the dangers posed by an Islamist victory. This caused an uproar and a huge loss of customers and profit. And possibly a loss of votes for the FEP, the most important "liberal" party.

There's a lot more here, please read the entire piece.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Time Magazine's Person of the Year: The Protester (many in kufiyas)

You no doubt know that Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2011 is "The Protester." The protester who, for Time, set it all off, is of course Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi. Read about it here. And check out the photo essay, of protesters from around the world (and especially, of course, from the Arab world), by  Peter Hapak. Three of the thirty-six items in the portfolio (some of which juxtapose two persons) feature protesters in kufiya. I reproduce them below:

El Teneen, a prominent Egyptian graffiti artist, wears a homemade gas mask.

Syrian activists Abdul Hamid Sulaiman, Rami Jarrah and Mohamed Abazid all fled the country. "I was tortured for three days, and that’s when I became more active and started using a pseudonym," Jarrah says. Right, his damaged iPhone.

An Egyptian protester, left, holds a spent shell casing found after clashes in Tahrir Square. 
Right, protester Ahmed Aggour, a.k.a. Psypherize, an Egyptian activist, artist and blogger.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sander Reijgers' Nike Kufiya Jackets

Thanks to Omar for telling me about these. Sander Reijgers is a Dutch artist/designer. He came up with a series of Nike jackets (I don't think they really have anything to do with Nike, officially) which use the kufiya. He calls this designer series the "Cultural Contrast of Symbolism." I find the project rather uninspiring and behind the times, given that so many designers have been doing so many things with kufiyas for the last 5 or 6 years or so, without any kind of "artistic" or "theoretical" pretension, but rather, simply for profit. I've documented many of these uses of the kufiya on this blog. I'm underwhelmed. But for the record, check it out. This blog shows you all the photos of the project. The source is here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kufiya & Wardrobe Malfunction: Sofia Vergara

I guess it was inevitable that a kufiya would show up in such a context. Sofía Vergara is a Colombian model and actress, and currently, a star in the ABC series Modern Family.

Today, it was reported widely (in venues that deal in such items) that she went out yesterday in see-through leggings. And of course, someone caught it on camera. The reports that I read completely missed the fact that she was wearing a kufiya. Huffington Post (which one would imagine would know better) called it a "grey cape." I suppose they were concentrating entirely on the leggings.

You can find even more photos here, courtesy TMZ.

I had previously thought that kufiya had ceased to be high fashion, as of 2009. Have the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements brought it back?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volkswagen Polo, Viral Ad with Kufiya-clad Suicide Bomber

Someone sent me notice of this ad three or four years ago. I just ran across the note.

It's a "viral" that seems to have been made to offend a lot of people and, perhaps, to embarrass a big corporation. A stereotypical Arab, wearing a camouflage jacket and a kufiya around his neck, gets into a Volkswagen Polo. He drives up to a sidewalk café, where a young woman sits holding her baby. The "Arab" pushes a button and blows up the bomb that is strapped around his midsection. There is a fireball inside the car, but it remains inside the vehicle, which remains intact, and there is no damage to anyone or anything outside it. The commercial ends with the statement that the Volkswagen Polo is "small but tough."

According to, it's not clear who is responsible for the ad.

Interesting, isn't it, that when this ad was created (2003?), the association between the kufiya and the suicide bomber was so fixed. It's come unglued since then, eh?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shadya Mansour, The Kufiya is Arab - الكوفية عربية

Many people have told me about this rap by Shadia Mansour, and the video, plus the more amateur ones that came out before this one. Thanks to all of you.

A new version of the vid came out in summer 2011, and here it is:

It's a powerful rap, a very well-made vid, and Shadia's delivery and her rhymes are compelling. The theme is: "they" are trying to take the kufiya, to make it into "fashion," in many colors, just like they have tried to steal our culture and our land and our dignity. But the kufiya remains Arab, and we hold on to it tenaciously. Please go here for the full lyrics, in Arabic and in English translation, courtesy, Revolutionary Arab Rap.

I am in general sympathy and solidarity with the message. But if you have been following this blog, you might guess that I have a somewhat different take on the international uses of the kufiya than Shadia.

First, the song and video to some degree undercut the message that the kufiya is Arab in some kind of essential way. Shadia raps,

هيك لبسنا الكوفية هويتنا الأساسية الكوفية كوفية عربية
This is how we wore the kufiya (our fundamental identity), the kufiya, the Arab kufiya.

But doesn't the fact that one is rapping, i.e., using a global cultural form, to express the notion of a fundamental or essential identity, problematize the notion of an essential Arab cultural identity? And what about the fact that M-1 of the progressive US rap group Ded Prez is shown at Shadia's side throughout much of the vid, wearing a kufiya? Does his presence support the claim that the kufiya is simply "Arab"? Or does it suggest that wearing the kufiya is a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, something that anyone, and not just Arabs, can wear to make such a statement?

Second, there is the problem of the "they" who have made the kufiya into "fashion" and who have "changed" its colors from red-and-white and black-and-white. As readers of this blog will know, I've looked at this issue quite carefully, and I have found no evidence to show that Israelis or Zionists are responsible for the fashionization and multi-colorization of the kufiya. I believe it is fair to criticize the turning of the kufiya into fashion (although I think the issue is not black or white), but it is not a Zionist plot. Yes, there were a couple cases where Israeli designers tried to take advantage of the fashion trend, but this is a very minor part of the story. There are many more instances of Zionists making a fuss about the proliferation of kufiyas via the world of fashion (for example, the flap over the Urban Outfitters kufiya and the kerfuffle over Rachel Ray) than of Zionists successfully turning the kufiya into "their" national dress.

My position is: once Palestinians encouraged non-Palestinians to wear the kufiya in solidarity (which people started doing as early as 1970 or 1971), the kufiya ceased simply to be "Arab" or "Palestinian."

Moreover, many people wear kufiyas of all sorts of colors to express their solidarity with Palestinians.

And Syrian businessmen have been producing kufiyas, in many colors, and quite beautiful ones, for some time. You can even purchase them at the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Moreover, the kufiya has been embraced by many as a kind of global symbol of resistance, at Tahrir, in Libya, in the occupy movement, and so on. I've documented this extensively.

Finally, to call the kufiya "Arab" is somewhat chauvinist with regards to the Kurds, who have used it for decades as a symbol of identity and resistance. They call it the puşis. Here's one example. I've not done much on the Kurdish uses, but hope to in future.

I'm not sure what sort of song you would do to get at the issues I raise (but hey, I'm just a blogger, not a songwriter), but I do think that Shadia falls a bit short in terms of articulating the complexities of the kufiya's uses, and I believe she falls back on nationalist rhetoric in a somewhat unreflective way. But I still like the song.

And I like the way she refashions that celebrated line from Mahmoud Darwish's poem, "Identity Card": "Record! I'm an Arab," and how she claims that the kufiya is her "identity card" (hawiya).

سجّل انا شادية منصور والحطة هويتي
Record it! I am Shadia Mansour and the kufiya is my identity.

Problem is, lots of us own those identity cards, and we wear them proudly.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DJ Haha, DJ Figo, Alaa 50 Cent and Sadat in Concert: Sha'abi Techno

More sha'abi techno from DJ Haha and DJ Figo, with rappers Alaa 50 Cent and Sadat, in concert. The sound levels make it almost unlistenable, but it gives you an idea of how good these dj's and rappers are, and of how cool the shaabi techno scene is. Thanks to Elliott for this.

"Haha" in Egyptian colloquial, by the way, means either "funny" or "disgust."

Fadwa Suleiman: Syrian revolutionary, in hipster kufiya

Check out this report from Al-Jazeera English on Syrian actress, star of TV, theater and cinema, Fedwa Suleiman, who has taken the side of the pro-democracy movement. She has been leading demonstrations in the city of Homs, the epicenter of the revolt. Of particular note is the fact that she is an Alawite, the heterodox Shi'ite sect, a minority in Syria, which forms the base of support for the Asad-led Ba'athi regime. Video clips of Suleiman, chanting on the microphone in Homs, typically show her wearing a purple kufiya. Purple kufiyas: no longer to be maligned as the insignia of the hipster or the empty-headed fauxhemian.

Here is a link to the full speech she delivered on November 11, together with an English translation. The Al-Jazeera report provides an excerpt. And here's a link to a BBC report on Suleiman's (or Sulayman) participation in the Homs demonstrations in early November. And a screen save, showing her with a black-and-white kufiya worn as a headscarf.

And here is a post from Razan Ghazzawi [see below], commenting approvingly of Fadwa Suleiman's speech of November 11, and noting how very dangerous it is for such a prominent Alawite to take a public anti-regime position.

Finally, here's another shot of Suleiman, leading chants in Homs, in the Khaldiya quarter, on December 9. Wearing a purple kufiya.

Screen grab from the above video:

Added December 14: I should note that Razan Ghazzawi, a Syrian-American, who blogged in support of Fadwa Suleiman last month and who I cite above, was arrested earlier this month and faces a 15-year prison sentence. Read about it here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thanksgiving: Beware the Sharia Turkey, Says Pam Geller

Noted Islamophobe Pam Geller, who blogs at, recently asserted that Butterball turkeys are now certified halal, confirming the rapidly creeping Islamization of the USA.

The hysteria is Pam Geller's. The kufiya-clad turkey is courtesy TPM, which reported on this gem.