Fashion Trend or Political Statement?

Add ImageA few years ago, a friend of mine traveled to Kuwait to visit the place where he grew up. When he returned, he brought back this Keffiyeh scarf for me. Its comfortable, chic and can be worn a million different ways. It seemed like a simple style choice - until last week when I was in the checkout line at Walmart. A Syrian woman saw it and asked if I was Arab. I politely said no. She asked where I got the scarf. "A friend," I replied. Then she tells me that "people may think you're a bad lady for wearing this." 

I was floored. Apparently, I'm not the only one. 

Not long ago, the generally non-controversial Rachael Ray appeared in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial sporting a scarf resembling a traditional Arabic keffiyeh, similar to Yasser Arafat's trademark accessory of choice. The resulting backlash forced the company to yank the ad. 

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Scarves resembling the keffiyeh have popped up on high fashion runways and further popularized by Urban Outfitters, who offered a selection of different colors and labeled them "anti-war scarves." The store was forced to pull the scarves from their winter collection and issue a statement of apology. So what are the rules of fashion vs. politics? Are people just too sensitive or should Americans not wear these symbols of Palestinian liberation? 

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