Favored in the 1980s by supporters of the Palestinian cause, these days the keffiyeh is just as likely to make a fashion statement as a political one. Trendy clothing store Urban Outfitters initially sold keffiyeh-like scarves until Jewish customers protested, according to commentator Malkin, but reintroduced them with different colors in several global markets. Fashion house Balenciaga glamorized them on the runway.
When celebrities and public figures don them, however, they are likely to draw heat. Before Ray's recent keffiyeh kerfuffle, there was the racket over Ricky Martin. Three years ago, the pop singer wore a red keffiyeh to show support for Palestinian human rights, Al-Qatami said.
When he learned that it had been inscribed with the phrase "Jerusalem is ours" in Arabic, he apologized, saying, "I had no idea that the keffiyeh scarf presented to me contained language referring to Jerusalem, and I apologize to anyone who might think I was endorsing its message."
Other celebrities, such as Collin Farrell, Mary Kate Olsen and Kanye West, have been singled out by Malkin for wearing "hate couture."
Al-Qatami believes people like Malkin and Schlussel are overreacting. "It's just an article of clothing," she said. "It only carries that kind of symbolism for people like Debbie Schlussel, who are promoting fear of Arabs."
Schlussel, the Detroit attorney and blogger, disagrees. She compares the keffiyeh to the Ku Klux Klan's white hoods. "People need to realize it's not just clothing," she said. "It's come to symbolize the garb of terrorism."
Schlussel said it's no accident that in some pictures and videos of Islamic terrorists who have kidnapped and killed Americans, their faces are covered with a keffiyeh.
In February, she took John McCain's daughter Meghan to task when several pictures surfaced of her wearing keffiyehs. In one, her mother, Cindy, sits beside Meghan, who has the headscarf wrapped around her neck. "It didn't occur to her that her daughter shouldn't be wearing that," Schlussel said. "The possible future first lady doesn't see that?
"People need to be educated," she added. "I think they can't have an excuse these days when wearing that."