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Ford wants decision reversed after Ontario legislature bans wearing of keffiyehs

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling for a reversal of a ban on keffiyehs in the legislature.

Ford says the decision was made by Speaker Ted Arnott alone and “needlessly divides” the people of Ontario.

Arnott says in a statement that wearing the Arab headdress in the house at this moment in time is intended to make a political point, adding that the Ontario legislature has long tried to restrict wearing any clothing or item attempting to make an overtly political statement.

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A keffiyeh is a black-and-white checkered scarf typically worn in Arab cultures that has come to symbolize solidarity with Palestinians.

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Opposition NDP Leader Marit Stiles wrote to Arnott in a letter dated April 12 to express disappointment in the move.

Meanwhile, Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie also called on the Speaker to reverse the ban.

“The wearing of these important cultural and national clothing items in our assembly is something we should be proud of,” Stiles wrote.

“It is part of the story of who we are as a province. Palestinians are part of that story, and the keffiyeh is a traditional clothing item that is significant not only to them but to many members of Arab and Muslim communities.”

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In a statement, Crombie suggested, “Here in Ontario, we are home to a diverse group of people from so many backgrounds.”

“This is a time when leaders should be looking for ways to bring people together, not to further divide us.”

Independent legislature member Sarah Jama, who was boosted from the NDP caucus last year over comments about the Israel-Hamas war, says the ban is “unsurprising, but nonetheless concerning, in a country with an ongoing legacy of colonialism.”

“You don’t have to go far back in Canadian history to see how state powers use suppression of Indigenous cultural dress, language, ceremony and beliefs as tools of genocide,” said Jama, who represents Hamilton Centre, in a statement.

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