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What is UO thinking?

Really? With a generic description that makes no reference to the etched centerpiece, Urban Outfitters’ advertises a brown “leather and rope” الله‎ bracelet for $8 on their website.

First the Kuffiyah Kontroversy of 2006 and now this. I don’t understand the motivations of the buyers for UO in this case either. Shock Value or New Muslim Cool? Is it suppose to be inclusive, offensive, or ironically hip? Consumption culture’s attempt to dilute symbolic value and religious meaning through commodification? Has Muslim posturing become the new cool? Or, the last option: Are the “forces that be” at UO just oblivious???

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22 Responses to “What is UO thinking?”

  1. Sis, you and I go back and forth on this. This is positive. I love the fact the kuffaya is/was hip and I hope non-Muslim/Non-Arabs keep rocking it…and I like the bracelett, I hope white blond kids across the nation rock it. This is good for us.

    Posted by Yasser | February 24, 2009, 9:14 am
  2. Yasser,

    Beyond the “positive or negative” material consequence of this mass distribution of distinctly Islamic symbolism, I’m just perplexed as to what the motivations are of the UO buyers. Maybe you could elucidate that for me?

    Posted by Maytha | February 24, 2009, 9:20 am
  3. Sorry to have become so deracinated from my Arabic background, but would someone please translate ?

    Posted by Ismail | February 24, 2009, 9:31 am
  4. Motivations differ. But generally, I think, many young people shop at Urban Outfitters because it is the mainstream way of looking non-mainstream…hippy/hip without the consequences of living outside of the mainstream. So once your inside of UO, I don't think you can characterize wearing a bracelett with Allah written in arabic on it or kuffaya as a "choice" in the real sense of the word. In other words, you are limited to what is on UO's shelves once you decide UO fashion is what you want to wear. Some young kid sees something new, i.e. the bracelett…and says "this is new…looks cool" and subconsciously, since it is in UO, it is "safe" and "hip" to wear…Makes total sense to me.

    Posted by Yasser | February 24, 2009, 5:38 am
  5. ismail – it says Allah (God) on it. which is interesting because in Islam it would be considered haram to go into a bathroom with this bracelet on

    Posted by Anonymous | February 24, 2009, 10:16 am
  6. I love the fact the kuffaya is/was hip and I hope non-Muslim/Non-Arabs keep rocking it

    People keep saying that, but here in Los Angeles I have *never* seen somebody wearing one. Not even an Arab. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go, but I’ve never seen a fad get so hyped when there wasn’t any actual evidence of a fad in the first place. And if it isn’t cool in LA, it isn’t cool. Southern California is where fads are born, before they go someplace else to die.

    Posted by programmer craig | February 24, 2009, 12:05 pm
  7. People keep saying that teabagging is just fad, but here in Los Angeles I have *never* ran into a zionut who wouldn’t teabag me. Not even an Arab-Zionut. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve sucked a lot of balls, but I’ve never seen a fad get so hyped when there wasn’t any actual evidence of a fad in the first place. And if it isn’t a zionut ballsack in LA, it isn’t cool. Southern California is where zionuts are sucked, before they go to Palestine to kill children.

    Posted by progammer craig | February 24, 2009, 12:24 pm
  8. I think the question of motivation is very key. If it’s haphazard exposure without any deeper understanding, then it really seems like commodification to me. If people buy it and learn about it, or learn about and buy it, its marginally less disturbing to me. But really, it’s all fun and games until you see someone wearing one of these on the “Girls gone wild” commercial with a heineken in their hand! That or something like ti will inevitably happen then I wonder what is really gained by this “mainstreaming” ushered in by UO.

    Posted by Dumi | February 24, 2009, 12:43 pm
  9. Dumi,

    I feel you. But this is not all taking place in a vaccum. The fact is, people’s “understanding” of Islam and Arabs is so bad that it is equated with the worst aspects of human behavior…murder/terrorism, etc. So having some white kid rock my people’s symbols/etc. and think it is “cool” as opposed to equating it with “symbols of terrorism” makes me happy…I’d rather they “learn” and have a deeper understanding but I’ll settle out of court for coolness.

    Posted by Yasser | February 24, 2009, 1:07 pm
  10. PC,

    Go to Los Feliz, Silverlake, Eagle Rock etc., heck even parts of Culver City. Find any indie rock venue and you will see lots of them. You see them a little in hollywood/sunset, but not as much. Venice more than Santa Monica…you get the picture. Incidence rises proportionally with the amount of hipsters/bohemians. I have seen them in more suburban areas too, but not as much. Mostly on the little skater kids with skinny jeans looking despondent at the local starbucks.

    Absence of evidence does not equal evidence.

    Posted by LA LA LAND | February 24, 2009, 2:23 pm
  11. Re: overpopularization of keffiyeh –> this is now well documented by stuffWhitepeoplelike, and that site is never wrong so it has to be true.

    As for the benefits of keffiyeh:
    I'm skeptical, I think keffiyeh popularization has just cheapened/diluted the cause with many ignoramuses oftentimes posed questions re: Middle East b/c of their attire. The other problem is that once the fashion fad fades out due to time, the cause risks being phased out into the background as well.

    In any case, lots of girls walk around with Allah pendants, so I don't necessarily see this as being a problem since its not a particular political symbol, although I think most practicing muslims would be hesitant to rock this thing casually.

    In any case, this Muslim/Middle Easternization popularization is not the first time with UO, a few years back they had a Palestine shirt that was heavily railed against by a large number of Jewish organizations (I think mostly pro-Israel fare, like the AJC, ADL etc.)

    I just wish their men's section would stock some cool track jackets like they used to.

    Posted by MarkyMark | February 24, 2009, 3:46 pm
  12. This is just like people thinking that bagels and locks are a “Jewish” deli thing. It is a commercialization of the perception of ethnic identity.

    No one will be learning anything about Islam by wearing this bracelet, and yes, it WILL find its way into a girls gone wild video, and many many more unholy occurrences off camera.

    Remember when people were into Japanese characters? They would get tattoos of them, or wear necklaces or bracelets, even though they didn’t know what those symbols meant? Or even if they did know, it was just a conversation piece at a party,

    “hey that’s a cool tattoo, what does it mean?”

    “it means the moon is the eye of the sky”

    “wow, that’s deep. so… are we gonna go to my place or what?”

    It’s kind of like that. No one really cares. The subculture is just looking for fresh symbols.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 24, 2009, 11:29 pm
  13. Allah pendants/necklaces are all over thrift stores these days I have no idea where they came from, unlike keffiyehs I’ve never seen anyone actually wearing one tho.

    Posted by nadia | February 25, 2009, 2:01 pm
  14. I actually like the wristband and would consider wearing it. The style is very earthy and natural. The only problem – UO doesn’t acknowledge its meaning. Why can’t they just say what it is? It’s as they’re refraining in fear of sale drops.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 25, 2009, 7:12 pm
  15. Kabob isn’t reporting videos like this. I wonder why. Remember when we heard about Hamas breaking legs of Fatah collaborators in Gaza? It’s all so neat and clean in black and white letters. Behind each pair of those broken legs is a human being.

    Watch for yourself how acts the Palestinian government of Gaza.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 25, 2009, 11:06 pm
  16. Anon 11:29,

    I have a post for you on that topic. It actually probably should have been integrated into this one-oh well. check out for a post on an interesting tattoo I discovered online.

    peace

    Posted by Maytha | February 26, 2009, 8:56 am
  17. “”I think the question of motivation is very key. If it’s haphazard exposure without any deeper understanding, then it really seems like commodification to me”"

    Commodification of culture is a good thing for everyone, and one more positive benefit of globalized capitalism.

    Oh, and Craig is wrong. I’m from LA, and they’re everywhere.

    Posted by Joe | March 1, 2009, 10:37 pm
  18. From the item description: “Give ‘em enough rope.”

    Gee, that’s not ominous at all. WTF?

    Posted by Anonymous | March 22, 2009, 12:10 pm
  19. programmer craig:

    Thank God we here in the Flyover States have people like you to tell us what is cool and what isn’t. We Without Culture bow down to your wisdom and guidance.

    Posted by Stella | March 22, 2009, 12:21 pm
  20. Rocking a kefiyyah is an NYC thing as far as I see, and as a Muslimah I think it’s cool, but I hope that those who are choosing to wear it are aware of the symbolism behind it.

    Posted by Jai | March 24, 2009, 4:37 pm
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