I have attended a range of schools in my life, including private secular schools, gifted and talented, Jewish modern-orthodox, Montessori, and pluralistic Jewish schools. One consistent factor within my time at each of these different schools has been the cultural appropriation of the Hamsa, which is also referred to as the Hand of Miriam or the Hand of Fatima. This appropriation has been committed by a variety of individuals, from secular Christians to goyim surrounded by a Jewish community -- and in every case it is wrong.
In order to understand why wearing the Hamsa is wrong if one is non-Jewish or non-Muslim, one needs to understand the historical and religious significance of the symbol.
The Hamsa has its roots in Middle Eastern countries, North African countries, and West Asian countries and is connected to Judaism and Islam. This hand is used primarily to ward off evil in each of these cultures and religions. (Source).
The Hamsa is called the Eye/Hand of Fatima in Islam, as mentioned before, which references Mohammed's daughter, Fatima. In Islamic stories, Fatima was cooking as her husband entered the home with a new wife -- Fatima, surprised, dropped her ladle. Though because she was focused on the new wife, she did not realize that she had been stirring with her bare hand instead of the dropped ladle, and did not notice the burns on her hand as she stirred. This is where the name of the Hamsa referring to Fatima comes from, making her hand a religious symbol. (Source).
In terms of historic representations of this symbol, the Hamsa is featured on the Puerta Judiciara of the Alhambra, Puerta Judiciara meaning the "Gate of Judgement". This structure dates back to the 1300s and is an Islamic fortress located in Spain. This is the earliest known representation of the Hamsa in history. This Hamsa seemingly corresponds to the word "khamsa" in Arabic, which means "five" , which is a number that is associated with battling the Evil Eye. The Hamsa on the Gate of Judgement draws on the five pillars of Islam with the five fingers appearing in the representation. (Source).
In terms of Judaism, the Hamsa is a Sephardic symbol. Historically, it is thought that Jewish individuals used the Hamsa to call upon the hand of G-d as well as to fight the Evil Eye. Many Hamsas have representations of fish within the palm of the hand, which references Rabbi Yose ben Hanina's Talmudic text that the children of Joseph (who were blessed to multiply like fish by Jacob) were protected from the Evil Eye just as fish are. (Source). In Judaism, the Evil Eye is often referred to as Ayin Hara. (Source).
In Kabbalistic amulets as well as manuscripts, representations of hands, specifically priestly hands, appear in place of the Hebrew letter shin, which is significant to Judaism as it is the first letter of Shaddai, a name of G-d. (Source).
Furthermore, in Judaism, Chaim Yosef David Azulai, also known as the Chida (source) referenced the number five in relation to protecting oneself against the Evil Eye; the Hamsa has five fingers and often is pictured with the Hebrew letter hey on it, which has the numerical value of five. (Source).
Though there is much more historical and religious context for the Hamsa in both Judaism and Islam, it is time to move on to why wearing the Hamsa as a gentile or as a non-Muslim is wrong.
Given all of this information, what the Hamsa truly means to both religions, how can one wear the Hamsa as a casual practice? My guess is that when reading this, you did not know every detail mentioned here regarding the origins of the Hamsa; in all probability, you did not know any of it, other than the fact that the Hamsa is used to ward off the Evil Eye. Imagine those Jewish and Muslim individuals who do know this context, who treasure this background -- to wear a Hamsa and have no real connection to the roots of the symbol is disrespectful.
Additionally, both Jews and Muslims are subjected to systemic forms of oppression based on their religion, culture and lifestyle -- based on wearing symbols like the Hamsa and carrying the history of the Hamsa with them, along with the history and meaning of countless other practices and symbols. To wear the Hamsa and not have to experience the same oppression that Jewish people and Islamic people have to face for wearing it feeds into oppression - anti-Semitism and Islamophobia - that works against these marginalized groups. By doing so, you are perpetuating the systems that actively isolate and alienate Jews and Muslims. It is unfair theft of someone else's lifestyle, their culture, and theft that comes at no price or cost to you - not even the same cost Jews or Muslims experience due to wearing that same symbol that belongs to them. When wearing such a symbol, Jews and Muslims carry with them a history of symbolic meaning, whereas when goyim or non-Muslims wear the hamsa, they wear it with a sustained history behind them of oppression towards these marginalized groups - they wear it with a systemic power over such groups.
I am a very religious individual, and in the context of my own religion, when I see a non-Jew wearing a Hamsa, even if they appreciate the meaning, I become offended - because they do not experience the oppression that comes along with wearing that symbol for Jews. They steal my culture with no reparations.
When identifying such cultural appropriation, it is of the upmost importance that we treat it with the gravity and seriousness it should be dealt with.
I mentioned the issue of appropriation of the Hamsa to an individual who self-identifies as “liberal”, such an individual saying, “I don’t care what people wear, people can wear whatever they want”. The issue here is we too often set aside subtle cultural appropriation as merely a style choice, such as this individual did, when in reality, it is an element of a larger system of oppression. Even “liberal” minded people are at risk of doing this, of dismissing the oppression of Jews. It is vital that anti-Semitism, in whatever form it takes, whether that be cultural appropriation or other, be taken seriously.