Why is Ontario, Canada banning the keffiyeh?

Why is Ontario, Canada banning the keffiyeh?
Ontario has banned the keffiyeh from being worn in its state legislature, alleging that the scarves are a ‘political statement’.
2 min read
19 April, 2024
The keffiyeh has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and resistance against Israeli occupation [GETTY]

The Ontario Legislature is upholding its ruling that bans wearing keffiyehs in the building, with its Speaker claiming the scarves represent a "political statement".

Speaker Ted Arnott said that after "extensive research"," he concluded that wearing keffiyehs in its assembly is a political statement because it upholds a "standard practice of decorum" and therefore he could not "authorise the wearing of keffiyehs based on our longstanding conventions".

The Legislature has maintained a rule that members cannot use props, signage or accessories to express political views.

Members of the provincial parliament must seek permission to wear items with political nuances, such as ribbons, for awareness days.

The keffiyeh is a traditional scarf worn in many Arab cultures, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, the Palestinian keffiyeh has been used as a symbol of Palestinian resistance and solidarity against the Israeli occupation.

Sales of the Palestinian keffiyeh have soared since 7 October and have been donned by many demanding a ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza.

The opposition party leader, NDP Leader Marit Stiles, introduced a consent motion that would have allowed the scarf to be worn, but it failed to pass at Queen's Park on Thursday despite all opposition party leaders stating their desire to see the ban overturned.

Stiles also noted that members have worn kilts, kirpans, vyshyvankas and chubas in the legislature, pointing out that such items are not only culturally significant but have also been considered political symbols.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also called on the Speaker to reverse the decision, stating that it "needlessly divides the people of our province".

Canada has faced criticism over it's support of Israel since Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

Most recently, pro-Palestinian and human rights advocates filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government to prevent it from allowing companies to export military goods and technology to Israel.