Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kaffiyeh Craziness at Gateway High

Two Muslim students are, again, for now, allowed to wear their kaffiyehs in Gateway High School, in Pennsylvania.

That's one of the few sensible things to happen there lately.

It Began with T-Shirts

As near as I can make out from the news, the mess started when three students wore T-shirts with "RIP Israel" on them. They were told to remove the shirts.

So far, so good. I'd see it the same way, if the T-shirts had said something like "death to Islam" - threats, real or implied, on T-shirts don't belong in school, IMO.

Then - a Petition

Then, some Jewish students put together a petition, "saying they felt threatened." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Okay. They felt threatened. The article doesn't say, but I suppose they might have felt threatened by the T-shirts, the students who wore them, or something else. Let's, hypothetically, say they felt threatened by the T-shirts.

And Something Very Strange Happened

So, the principal tells two Muslim students to take off their kaffiyehs. That's a distinctive sort of head-scarf, worn by a great many men and boys in the Middle East. It's what Yasser Arafat used to wear on his head, too.

I think I follow the - thinking? - here:

Jewish students feel threatened.
Maybe by T-shirts with something sorta terroristic on them.
Those Ay-rab students got cloth on their heads.
Yasser Arafat had cloth on his head.
Yasser Arafat was Ay-rab, and a terrorist!

Maybe not. As I said, the news article was pretty vague on some important points.

Here's a Radical Idea: Maybe Gateway Could Educate Students?

Gateway High School is (finally, it seems) having Muslim and Jewish students talk. There's a good chance that they'll all find out that their fellow-students don't have horns and barbed tails.

I think that having students talk is a good idea. But I can't help but wonder if it might not be a good idea to spread the word around about what kaffiyehs are. (It's spelled "kiffiyeh" sometimes - Arabic-to-Latin alphabet transfers are tricky).

Yes, some people see the headgear as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity (against the 'genocidal Jews,' no doubt). It's also been a fashionable accessory - or whatever fashionable people call bits of stuff they put on their clothes. And, my guess is that it's also a quite ancient part of quite a few people's culture.

If Gateway High School is a so full of racial and religious hate, that a few pieces of cloth might set off a bloodbath: maybe the school should be closed, and the students relocated until the mess can be sorted out.

If that's not the case: I see this kaffiyeh kookiness as a missed opportunity.

Let's Consider This

  • Not All Arabs are Muslims
  • Not all Muslims are Terrorists
  • Not all Terrorists are Muslims
  • Not all Muslims are Arabs
Living in a world where the bad guys don't always wear black hats, where some Arabs aren't Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs, is complicated. But it sure beats feeling threatened by pieces of cloth.

Related posts: In the news: Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.