Is the Keffiyeh Religious

Is the Keffiyeh Religious?

Many people associate the keffiyeh, a headdress worn by many cultures that celebrate the Islamic faith, with religion. As of late, concerns about the exploitation of the religion that is associated with the keffiyeh have been brought up.

However, while it’s true that a lot of people who do practice Islam wear this headdress, it’s important to note that it is not deemed a religious garment.
So, what is the keffiyeh? Let’s take a look at the history of this headwear that is often worn by Palestinians and those who support the nation and religion of Palestine.

History of the Keffiyeh


The keffiyeh (also known as shemagh, mashadah, guhtrah, cermedani, and several other names), is a headdress that has been worn by people of Arabian regions for centuries. In fact, the wearing of this garb dates back to 3000 BC, when it was initially worn by Mesopotamian and Sumerian high priests to symbolize their high-ranking authority. As time progressed, peasants began to wear the keffiyeh as a way to protect themselves against the arid region’s harsh elements; for example, it shielded farmers against the sun, high heat, cold, rain, and wind-swept sand and dust.


The popularity of the keffiyeh grew in the 1900s as a result of the British Mandate. During the Arab Revolt of 1936, during which Palestinian rebels protested the British Mandate, rebels donned the keffiyeh as a way to disguise themselves so that they could avoid being arrested. The authorities of the British Mandate responded by banning the headdress, but the backlash from Palestinians resulted in more and more people wearing the keffiyeh to make it more difficult for authorities to recognize the rebels.
As a result of these events, the headdress became known as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, and that symbolism continues to this day. In fact, the keffiyeh’s symbol of resistance became even stronger during in 1987 and 2000, in response to the First Intifada and Second Intifada, respectively. Yasser Arafat, the late president of Palestine, had a strong influence on the symbolism of resistance that is associated with the keffiyeh, as he would seldom wear appear in public without donning one.

The Keffiyeh as a Political Symbol


The keffiyeh can actually be considered more of a political symbol than a religious symbol. That’s because it is largely worn as to symbolize Palestinian resistance against the British Mandate and become the garb that the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat wore on a consistent basis.


Arafat wasn’t the only political figure that the keffiyeh is associated with. Leilia Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, often wore the headdress. Additionally, the colors of the keffiyeh are believed to be tied to political sympathies of Palestine. For example, black and white were linked to fatah, while red and white were worn by Marxists of Palestine.

Is the Keffiyeh Religious?
To summarize, though the keffiyeh is often worn by people who celebrate Islam, it is not considered a religious garb; rather, it is more closely connected to politics.

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