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Storm over celebrity cook’s ‘jehadi scarf’

Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad last week after critics said that the scarf worn by the Food Network star symbolised Muslim extremism and terrorism.

world Updated: Jun 06, 2008 02:57 IST

To Palestinian-American designer Nemi Jamal, the controversy surrounding a fringed black-and-white scarf worn by television celebrity cook Rachael Ray in an ad for iced coffee is “just a disgrace.”

Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad last week after critics said that the scarf worn by the Food Network star symbolised Muslim extremism and terrorism.

Not to Jamal, born in Jericho and now living in New City, New York, who said that the kaffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress, is no fashion faux pas but a symbol of nationalism. She is among the Arab-Americans who say the comments are inaccurate and show prejudice.

“The Palestinian people consider this their flag,” said Jamal, who has designed jeans, pocketbooks and neck ties with the scarves.

Once the trademark headwear of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the hatta, as it is also called, dates back centuries and is used to shield those who live in the desert from the relentless sun and dust storms. The traditional headdress became symbolic during the Palestinian uprising against the British occupation from 1936 to 1939, and has been a symbol of nationalism ever since, according to Rochelle Davis, an assistant professor of culture and society at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

But blogs had buzzed about the scarf in the Dunkin' Donuts ad, with some arguing it is worn by terrorists who appear in beheading and hostage-taking videos.

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin said in her online column that the apparel “has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons.”

“The kaffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad,” the column read.