Friday, May 30, 2008

More on Rachael Ray, Dunkin' Donuts, and Kufiyas

Now that Dunkin' Donuts has apologized and pulled the ad, this controversy is just about over for this news cycle. But in the interest of completeness (otherwise known as being hysterically obsessive about kufiyas), I'd like to call attention to a couple more reports on the item.

First, there is rightwing commentator Michelle Malkin's post (from of May 28 (read the entire piece here).

"The keffiyeh, for the clueless," writes Michelle, "is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not so ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities and left-wing icons."

"The scarves are staples at anti-Israel rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley."

She name-checks prominent kufiya wearers, some of whom who have been kufiyaspotted by hawgblawg: Ricky Martin, Hugo Chavez, Spain's Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Howard Dean, Colin Farrell, Sienna Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Kanye West and Meghan McCain. And she also mentions designers and fashion outlets, including Balenciaga, Topshop, and of course, Urban Outfitters, and goes into details about the recent flap over Urban Outfitters' "Victimized" t-shirt.

(Malkin has gone after some of these folks before--see her post on "hate couture" from 2006.)

Malkin takes partial credit for Dunkin' Donuts' decision to withdraw its ad, and praises the company for its "sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists." "Too many" US companies, she says, "bend over backward in the direction of anti-American political correctness."

Michelle concludes:

"It's just a scarf, the clueless keffiyeh-wearers scoff. Would they say the same of fashion designers who marketed modified Klan-style hoods in Burberry plaid as the next big thing?

Fashion statements may seem insignificant, but when they lead to the mainstreaming of violence -- unintentionally or not -- they matter. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. In post-9/11 America, vigilance must never go out of style."

Michelle articulates the familiar conflation of support for Palestinian rights with Islamic jihad, terrorism, beheadings of hostages, "anti-Israel" sentiments, anti-Americanism, leftists, and by extension, the KKK. Her rhetoric is not just characteristic of right-wing commentators, but of centrist and liberal thinking as well.

I agree with Michelle on one thing: fashion is significant. Folks, wear your kufiyas.

(I also note that Michelle weighed in against Fun'Da'Mental's All Is War and other so-called "jihad rap" back in June 2006--check out this video comment on Vent. I have numerous previous posts on this controversy.)

And now here is some more for the completists:

Celebs are People Too comments (thanks, Chris): "Note to Malkin: these types of scarves are available at Target. Get over yourself," and suggests "Readers, if you care about the state of this nation, you’ll send in your thoughts to Michelle Malkin and let her know America, similarly, has no use for her."

I'm all for criticizing Ms. Malkin, but why not do it on the basis of support for Palestinian rights, rather than resorting to Target? (I'm pretty sure it's not sold there, but the point of CAPT is of course rhetorical, i.e., that such scarves are entirely mainstream and harmless.)

And then there is a report from the New York Post, with a comment from Ahmed Rehab of CAIR:

"I think it's a mistake to demonize a single article of clothing," said Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"Yes, maybe some suicide bombers have worn it, but so have a million other non-suicide bombers. It'd be as ludicrous as decrying clothes because all 19 people involved in the Sept. 11 attacks wore clothes."

In the United States and Europe, the gray and white scarf is much more of a fashion statement than a political one, Rehab said.

"Yes, it has symbolized Palestinians, but it's also a yuppie fashion statement," Rehab joked. "I've seen young blond women wear it on the Tube in London and in Lincoln Park in Chicago. If it's become a political statement, I didn't get the memo on it."

Rehab--why bring up suicide bombers, and why deny that it's any kind of political statement?

Finally, another kufiyaspotting, from wayneandwax: a photo of a kufiya for sale at the great music store, Newbury Comics, in Cambridge, Mass. The item, wayne informs me, is from david & young: check here

and here--described as a "peace scarf"--the same designation Urban Outfitters originally used.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #33: Kufiya Pulled from Dunkin' Donuts Ad, but Okay for Grand Theft Auto 4

Thanks to Hisham and Shiva for alerting me to the Dunkin Donuts kufiya furor, which has been posted many times, including the Huffington Post. Conservative blogs made a fuss about a Dunkin Donuts ad featuring t.v. personality Rachael Ray, wearing a black-and-white kufiya around her neck.

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin called it a "jihadi chic keffiyeh"--a clever designation I'd not heard before. Michelle was reluctant to launch a boycott of Dunkin Donuts because, she says, its managers "have braved boycott threats and attacks over their lonely, principled stance against illegal immigration." (Here's more on the story from the Boston Globe.)

Rachael Ray has been criticized for her Dunkin Donuts' relationship by rival chef Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain, referring to the diabetes and obesity epidemic among young people, says it's like "endorsing crack for kids."

But maybe Rachael, whose maternal grandparents were from Sicily, was just indicating her ethnic identification, since Sicily was ruled by the Arabs during the ninth and tenth centuries...

Meanwhile, I've heard no furor about the kufiya associated with Grand Theft Auto IV. So I'd like to raise my own objections.

Check out this video for the song "Nickname" by the rapper Qadir (sometimes also spelled Quadir) AKA Da Poet. "Nickname" is part of the music for the recently released video game, the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto IV. This game series has been criticized for its violence, but that is not my concern here. Rather, it is the fact that Qadir, who is a Muslim, and has a reputation for being a "conscious" rapper, has decided to wear a kufiya in a video that features lots and lots of guns. The theme of the song is: "I've got a nickname for all my guns," and the nicknames consist of the names of rappers (dead and alive), like Big Pun, Tupac, and Lil Wayne. The lyrics are actually clever, Qadir has good flow, and it's a catchy song.

But Quadir Habeeb is a "conscious" rapper, and a Muslim one to boot, who so impressed Chuck D (of Public Enemy) that he signed Quadir to his label, So what is he doing in a video where he demonstrates a fond intimacy for all the guns in his big arsenal, and at the same time is wearing a kufiya?! Talk about reinforcing all the associations that US conservatives and right-wing Zionists have attempted to make between the kufiya and jihadi terrorism! (See above.)

For more info about Qadir, check out his myspace page.

Quilty responds to Angry Arab

I posted a link to Jim Quilty's fine report, from Middle East Report Online, on the recent events in Lebanon in an earlier post. Someone posted a comment, asking what I thought of Angry Arab's comments on Quilty's articles. I said, "not much," and in particular I objected to Angry Arab's claim of MERIP's "editorial congruence with the Hariri Inc." Recently, Quilty penned his own response to Angry Arab. I asked him if I could reproduce it, but now I find that Angry Arab has done so. So check it out.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kufiyaspotting #32: Shwayze in Pontiac ad

Thanks to Dave who spotted this for me. (I can't spend all my time surfing around on Yet another hip-hop kufiya convergence. Sorry, I'm abroad, and I don't have the software to produce an image of the kufiya-clad Shwayze, performing the song "Buzzin'." (Malibu-rapper Shwayze is sans kufiya in the original vid for the song, which you can view here.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Urban Outfitters Controversy: Palestinian T (and Freshjive's Arafat T)

Urban Outfitters has become involved in yet another Palestine-related fashion controversy, this time over a t-shirt featuring a Palestinian kid with a kufiya around his neck, cradling a weapon, with the word "Victimized." Thanks to Hisham for alerting me to this report from Haaretz (May 22).

Fashion wars / U.S. store pulls 'pro-violence' Palestinian T-shirt

T-shirt sold by Urban Outfitters showed Palestinian youth carrying automatic rifle, map of West Bank, Gaza.

By Alison Avigayil Ramer

Popular U.S. clothing store Urban Outfitters has halted sales of a T-shirt apparently supporting Palestinian violence that has sparked outrage in the American Jewish community.

The T-shirt, created by Los Angeles-based designer "Fashion Jive," depicts a young Palestinian boy carrying an M-16 rifle, over the word "Victimized." The T-shirt also shows the Palestinian flag, a map of the Palestinian territories and a small white dove. The item sold online for $25.

"If Urban Outfitters is good at something, it is getting publicity," remarked Ami Cohen, works for American Apparel in Tel Aviv. "This company has a history of coming into conflict with

Several years ago, the company played on the "Jewish American Princess" stereotype by selling T-shirts with the slogan "Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl," surrounded by dollar signs and
shopping bags.

In 2007, it again came into conflict with Jewish and pro-Israel consumers for selling versions of a traditional Arab headdress, the kaffiyeh, as an "anti-war scarf."

Although the firm's CEO, Dick Heyne, argued that the company had not intended "to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism" by selling the kaffiyeh, some argue that selling of the "Victimized" T-shirt does just that.

"Of course this T-shirt is supporting terrorism," said Leah Weiss, a fashion designer who recently immigrated to Israel. "I've joined a Facebook group to boycott Urban Outfitters and get rid of their clothes. I will never shop there again."

The T-shirt also sparked debate among Jewish bloggers, who discussed the elements of violence depicted in the T-shirt. JBlog Central reported that one surfer had branded the item of clothing a "brutal, bloody Jew-hating tee shirt."

Stacey Strober, Urban Outfitter's Store Operations Manager, said in response that the shirt had been removed from shops and the online store, and that the company had never intended to cause upset.

"Please understand that we do not buy items to provoke controversy or to intentionally offend. We have pulled this item in all of our locations and will no longer be selling it online either."

Others, however, expressed support for the T-shirt and its message.

"All fashion is political in nature. Since most people today aren't directly involved in politics, fashion is a good way to reach people and raise their awareness about the Israeli occupation," argued Sami Zeibak, a Palestinian fashion journalist living in Tel Aviv.

"Jewish people should not be offended by this because it is not anti-Jewish and not anti-Israel, it is anti-occupation."

Check out the response (May 21) to all the criticism by Rick Klotz, who owns Freshjive, which produced the t-shirt. Klotz in particular takes on the (predictable) claims that the shirt is anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli, and pro-terrorism. Below I reproduce some of his comments:

"This shirt shows various Palestinian kids with guns. I believe the image can be interpreted in many different ways, but some people are choosing to jump to the conclusion that it means that I am somehow "jew-hating".

And in any case, is it not simply true that some Palestinian kids have become child soldiers due to the ongoing battle between Palestine and Israel?

There is a stylized version of the word "VICTIMIZED" at the bottom of the design. Is it not simply true that some Palestinians and especially Palestinian children are victims of this terrible conflict? I am of the opinion they are.

So where does "OPENLY ANTI-ISRAEL", "GLORIFIES PALESTINIAN TERRORISM AND CHILD ABUSE", "VICTIMIZING JEWS", and "BRUTAL BLOODY JEW HATING T SHIRT" come from? Is this the SPIN some of you choose to place on our design statement to DEMONIZE us?....

Some people criticized the image for being in poor taste, and suggested a more positive graphic would have been more appropriate. I say if you think it is in poor taste, don't buy it. My business deals in the graphic arts and I believe that one of the highest purposes of art is to spark discussion by challenging people to think in new ways about serious issues.

The entire point of this graphic, and other graphics, is definitely to push an opinion and a topic I would like our customers to pay some attention to (rather than blindly buy our product for fashion and aesthetic reasons). To inspire thinking and create a public dialog on such topics is extremely important, and discussions from both sides of the fence are extremely beneficial to come to realizations and hopefully mutual understandings. Respectful dialog between people who disagree is essential to the health of a democratic culture."

Klotz also calls attention to other t-shirt items produced by Freshjive. Hawblawg readers may be interested in these items, The Good Old Days! line:

and the somewhat less aesthetically interesting Peace in the Middle East line:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fun^Da^Mental Documentary

In the course of hunting for more Fun'Da'Mental material, I discovered that the documentary on the group, which is included on an invaluable bonus DVD that comes with the CD for All Is War: The Benefits of G-had, is available to watch, and download online here. Directed by SpiritualKids, it is called "If I Wanted Your Opinion I Would have Given it to You." It's well worth the watch. I particularly enjoyed the concert footage from the early days of the band's existence, but there is also a lot of interesting commentary from the band's various members over the years, including not just Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts, but also vocalist Lloyd Sparkes and Nawazish Ali Khan, the qawwali artist who sings and plays harmonium and violin with the band.

And there's more kufiya material. In the film, Aki (who always seems to have one on) calls the kufiya a "PLO scarf" and he says "it's a symbol of oppression, resistance and fighting back."

Jim Quilty on "Lebanon’s Brush with Civil War": from MERO Online

It's been a long time since I've blogged. Here's the explanation: I was busy finishing up the semester, and getting ready to travel to Israel/Palestine. On May 11 I began a one-month teaching gig at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba/Bi'r Saba'. I'm affiliated with the MA Program in Middle East Studies (MAPMES). I can't promise I'll do a lot of blogging while here. So far it seems that teaching and trying to finish up papers has preoccupied me, but I'm going to try as of today to make more of an effort.

So, here's a link to Jim Quilty's very timely and informative piece on the recent events in Lebanon, published by Middle East Report Online. Here's a sample paragraph--but be sure to read the entire article:

Then there are the negative ramifications. Regardless of its militia’s discipline, and no matter how low the body count in the first two days, Hizballah’s sweep through West Beirut has done irreparable damage to its image among moderate supporters, particularly in the Sunni and Shi‘i communities. By the end of Lebanon’s civil war, the party had vowed never to wield its arms against other Lebanese, saying these were reserved for use against Israel. A good deal of public tolerance of Hizballah among those outside the party rested on trusting Nasrallah to keep that promise. Given the climate of sectarian fear that Lebanon’s political class has nurtured since 2005, the specter of firefights involving ski-masked militants, the very embodiment of “them,” was bound to conjure up horrific memories of the 15-year civil war, and with it the resentment of those Lebanese who never want to return to those days. True, the Hariri-owned media (like most Lebanese media) is a neo-feudal institution whose principles of disinterested journalism have badly lapsed since 2005, but silencing media voices (and worse, allowing SSNP partisans to vandalize and torch the premises) could not but confirm accusations that the opposition is authoritarian. For Lebanese Sunnis, it is not difficult to see these actions as an assault upon the memory of Saad’s assassinated father. The ensuing bitterness is unlikely to be assuaged by reminding them how many opposition media outlets Rafiq al-Hariri shut down when he was prime minister.

And just in case you missed these items published by MERO last month, check out Hilal Elver's very informative article about the latest in the headscarf controversy in Turkey, and the article by the ever-informative Joel Beinin on neoliberalism and working class struggles in Egypt.