Friday, May 30, 2008

Rachael Ray in a Kaffiyeh?!

Recently in the news... Dunkin' Donuts pulled an online advertisement featuring Rachael Ray after complaints that a fringed black-and-white scarf that the celebrity chef wore in the ad offers symbolic support for Muslim extremism and terrorism.

First, some background for those who may not be familiar with this issue. Then, an opinion.

The coffee and baked goods chain said the ad that began appearing online May 7 was pulled because "the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee."

Critics, including conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, complained that the scarf wrapped around her looked like a kaffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress. Critics who fueled online complaints about the ad in blogs say such scarves symbolize Muslim extremism and terrorism.

The kaffiyeh, Malkin wrote in a online column, "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."

A statement issued by Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' Brands Inc., said the scarf had a paisley design and that a stylist chose it for the advertising shoot. "Absolutely no symbolism was intended," the company said.

Malkin, in a posting following up her initial column, said of Dunkin's decision to pull the ad: "It's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists."

Now, an opinion.

While I certainly have no sympathy for Muslim (or Arab) extremism, it's clear that complaints about the scarf's use in the ad demonstrate misunderstandings of Arab culture and the multiple meanings that symbols can take on depending on someone's perspective.

While some extremists and terrorists may wear kaffiyehs, to reduce their meaning to support for terrorism both has a tacit racist tone and demonstrates a highly simplistic view regarding a exceedingly complex issue.

1 comment:

San said...

While the accusation may have been based on pure ignorance or need of more ratings, I am extremely shocked by the lame response from DD, pulling the ad.

My main question is "what if it was the other way around?" If the arab population was the offended one by the fact that such two american symbols like RR and DD use something so dear to them in an ad?

I have my own ideas of what would have happened then...