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Michigan congresswoman’s scarf is not a symbol of ‘Hamas terrorists’

December 18, 2019 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib wearing the “symbol of Hamas terrorists.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Tlaib is wearing a keffiyeh, a checkered scarf that has come to embody Palestinian solidarity. The scarf does not represent the Islamist militant group Hamas. 

THE FACTS: A photo circulating on social media shows the Michigan representative wearing a keffiyeh during Dec. 6 remarks against H.Res326,  a resolution promoting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The photo circulated on Facebook with the false caption that the scarf was a symbol of Hamas. 

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“The keffiyeh has nothing to do with Hamas per se, people all over the world wear it,” Evan Renfro, a scholar who has written about the meaning behind the keffiyeh, told The AP in a phone call.

The scarf came to represent “a solidarity with the Palestinian people,” said Renfro, a professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. “There’s no connotation with terrorism.”

The scarf, which became identified with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who made it an indispensable part of his wardrobe, has not always had political connotations. Originally, it was used to keep the sun and dust out of laborers’ eyes. It later came to represent Arab nationalists against colonial rule. 

To this day, the design is popular in Palestinian art and culture, synonymous with the struggle to obtain Palestinian rights under Israeli occupation. Some western brands have attempted to commodify keffiyeh-inspired designs, such as Topshop, which received backlash in 2017 for selling a romper made of fabric that mirrored the design. 

Tlaib has worn traditional Palestinian dress before. Last year, she dressed in  her mother’s thobe, a traditional embroidered dress, at her swearing as the first female Palestinian-American member of Congress. 

Tlaib is an outspoken progressive who has been critical of President Donald Trump. She’s part of a group of freshman minority congresswomen known as “The Squad,” which includes Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts,  Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536