Photo Credit: Hoodies/YouTube
Bar Rafaeli, one of Israel’s most prominent models, appeared in an advert for Hoodies, an Israeli clothing brand. The video opens with a Hebrew caption reading “is Iran here?” while zoomed in on Bar Refaeli’s face, which is covered in a black niqab. She has been criticized because in the advert she rips off a face veil to the slogan “freedom is basic.” Refaeli, 33 — a former girlfriend of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio — is one of the world’s best-known models. She married the Israeli billionaire Adi Ezra in 2015.
Refaeli’s performance was criticized online as anti-Islam and anti-Iran, where that type of headscarf is rarely seen. Under Iranian law, women are required to cover their head, but millions ignore this by wearing loose veils.
The clothing company ran the advert two weeks ago and it was viewed 253,959 times on YouTube. Following the outrage, Hoodies posted another version in which the Iran reference was removed and other women, including the transgender actor StavStrashko and an Ethiopian-Israeli model, also removed niqabs. Both videos received more dislikes than likes.
One comment under the video says: “Your idea of freedom is not the same as mine. I am free in my hijab. Just because I am fully clothed does not mean I [have been] forced.” NuseirYassin, an Arab-Israeli video blogger who runs the Nas Daily online video show, described the advert as the “worst commercial ever,” and then he added “It is not OK to disrespect an entire country, an entire gender, or an entire religion just to sell a T-shirt.”
The face veil pre-dates Islam, and had been used by certain Arabian pre-Islamic cultures. Culturally, it is "a custom imported from Najd, a region in Saudi Arabia and the power base of its Salafi fundamentalist form of Islam. Within Muslim countries it is very contested and considered fringe."
The 20th century ruler in Iran, Reza Shah, banned all variations of face veil in 1936, as incompatible with his modernistic ambitions. Reza Shah ordered the police to arrest women who wore the niqab and to remove their face veils by force. Between 1941 and 1979 wearing the niqab was no longer against the law, but it was considered by the government to be a "badge of backwardness." In modern Iran, the wearing of niqab is not common but it is still worn by certain ethnic minorities and a minority of Arab Muslims in the southern Iranian coastal cities.