Chef Rachael Ray's 'Keffiyah' Attracts Critics

Dunkin' Donuts has dropped an online ad featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray wearing a scarf that some critics say is symbolic of terrorism. The fringed, black-and-white-checked wrap is being compared to the keffiyah, a traditional Arab headdress.

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Dunkin' Donuts has taken an ad off the Internet because of a scarf that has caused controversy. The scarf was worn by a celebrity chef Rachael Ray. Conservative bloggers complained it was symbol of terrorism.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports.

JAMIE TARABAY: Rachael Ray is one of Dunkin' Donuts' most prominent spokespeople.

(Soundbite of TV commercial)

Ms. RACHAEL RAY (Spokeswoman, Dunkin' Donuts; Host, "Rachael Ray Show"): America runs on Dunkin'.

TARABAY: There's a provocative piece of black-and-white clothing draped around her shoulders in one online ad. It could be silk. It could be cotton. It could paisley, or it could be checkered. For fashionistas, it's fashion.

Mr. ANTHONY MILLER (Chairman, Fashion and Accessories Department, Savannah College of Art and Design): It's like a pashmina, you know? They come in, they go out.

TARABAY: Anthony Miller chairs the fashion and accessories department at the Savannah College of Art and Design. For some conservative bloggers, it looked like a traditional Arab head dress, a keffiyah. One of them called Hate Couture.

Mr. MILLER: I've never associated it with religion. So I think that kind of a statement is really unjust. It's not appropriate, in my eyes.

TARABAY: Bloggers said it reminded them of the late Yasser Arafat, and that it represented groups like Islamic jihad and terrorists who've beheaded hostages on video. The piece of cloth originates in the Middle East, but you can buy similar-looking scarves at the Gap or at Urban Outfitters, where it's dubbed the Houndstooth Desert Scarf. This isn't new, Miller says.

Mr. MILLER: Fashion polls from every place, whether it be - one year, it's going to be China. One year it's going to be the Middle East. And we're constantly looking for some type of element from an ethnic background.

TARABAY: And this keffiyah has been around a very long time. Pierre Tristam writes the About.com Guide to Middle East Issues, and says the keffiyah is as dear to Bedouins in the Middle East as Birkenstocks are to Vermonters.

Mr. PIERRE TRISTAM (Writer, About.com Guide to Middle East Issues): It's not a representative headgear of one type of political leaning or extremism, let alone terrorism. It has come to be that in the eyes of some. But that's a very narrow minded and narrow view of the thing.

TARABAY: The keffiyah was designed for a very simple task: to keep the sand out of your mouth in the desert, something coalition troops are using it for during these wild Iraqi sandstorms.

Mr. TRISTAM: Australian, British and American troops right now in Iraq wear this thing. It's very comfortable. It's extremely practical. It does keep the sand off your eyes and your mouth in sandstorms. It keeps you very cool in the arid months, and it keeps you very warm in the cold months.

TARABAY: While some conservatives have applauded Dunkin' Donuts for pulling the ad so quickly, others say the group overacted and caved into what they called unfounded and unnecessary criticism. The Interfaith Alliance issued a statement from its president, Reverend Welton Gaddy, who just returned from the Middle East. In statement, he says enough already. Have we really reached the point where we're associated wearing a scarf of Middle Eastern origin with terrorist sympathies? If that's the case, I'd like to suggest we stop wearing sweaters with hoods, so as not expose any sympathies for the Unabomber.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News.

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