Oklahoma dean of structure apologizes for sporting thawb and keffiyeh
OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) The Dean of the College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma publicly apologized Monday (August 24) for wearing an Arabic robe and headdress known as a thaw and keffiyeh at a back to school event.
According to The Oklahoma Daily, the school newspaper, three or four people contacted the school to complain about the clothes. The paper described the thaw and keffiyeh as clothing associated with Islam.
According to Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the American-Islamic Relations Council, clothing is not Muslim clothing.
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“If it were prescribed in the Koran or in the hadith, you would see it everywhere Muslims live,” said Soltani. “It is traditional clothing in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, and it is also worn by non-Muslims in those areas.”
In his statement, Dean Charles Graham said he had asked several Muslim friends whether it would be offensive to Muslims for him to wear the clothes. Everyone assured him that this would not be the case. Graham’s Muslim friends thought it was a “nice gesture of diversity and acceptance of other cultures”.
“We applaud the dean for his courage in striving for diversity and respect across cultural boundaries,” said Soltani, “and we also applaud his humility to apologize, even if we believe he doesn’t owe anyone an apology.”
According to Graham, more than 30 architecture students took part in a study abroad program in Dubai. Graham said he bought the clothes the last time he was in Dubai and decided to wear them as a gesture of multicultural respect and educating people about cultural differences.
“We have all learned about the multicultural and diverse nature of the people in Dubai and their friendliness towards Americans,” Graham said in his statement.
Graham initially agreed to speak to a reporter, but later declined the interview.
Soltani said he didn’t think the complaints offended the Muslims.
“There’s nothing offensive here,” he said. “The callers were more likely to be offended because of prejudice against Islam and thought the clothing was traditional Muslim clothing.”
YS / WITH END HORTON
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