Ontario parliament
Ontario parliamentiStock

The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on Wednesday announced a ban on the wearing of keffiyeh scarves in the Ontario legislature, causing an uproar and prompting Premier Doug Ford to call for the reversal of the decision, CityNews reported.

The Speaker, Ted Arnott, said in a statement to multiple media outlets that after extensive research, he concluded the wearing of keffiyehs at present time in the assembly is intended to be a political statement.

Keffiyehs have regularly been spotted in the crowds of pro-Palestinian Arab rallies in Toronto over the last several months.

Under Arnott’s order, keffiyehs would be banned in the legislative precinct by Members, staff and the public.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles expressed her disappointment in the development in a letter to the Speaker and urged him to reconsider the directive.

“The wearing of these important cultural and national clothing items in our Assembly is something we should be proud of. It is part of the story of who we are as a province,” read Stiles’ letter. “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.”

Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie also spoke out against the ban, writing on social media, “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.”

Later, Premier Ford said in a statement that the ban of the keffiyeh was made “by the speaker and the speaker alone.”

“I do not support his decision as it needlessly divides the people of our province. I call on the speaker to reverse his decision immediately,” said Ford, according to CityNews.

Toronto and the area have seen an increase in anti-Israel riots and acts of antisemitism since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas on October 7.

In early November, an Indigo book store in downtown Toronto was vandalized with red paint and posters plastered on its front windows wrongfully accusing its Jewish founder and CEO, Heather Reisman, of “Funding Genocide.”

In January, a Jewish-owned grocery store in Toronto was spray-painted with the words “Free Palestine” and later set on fire.

Days later, Toronto police arrested four people on a highway overpass, located near a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, that has become the site of recurring pro-Palestinian Arab protests.

Just last week, posters in Toronto depicting four-year-old Ariel Bibas and one-year-old Kfir Bibas, who were kidnapped to Gaza on October 7 along with their parents Shiri and Yarden Bibas, were vandalized with swastikas.