A Muslim girl is appealing to Apple to create a hijab emoji

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Harriet Hall
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It feels as though every week there’s some new emoji information, a request for a new emoji or a new meaning for an old emoji. It’s a veritable minefield out there, navigating the emoji world.

But, sadly, those little yellow critters simply aren’t cutting it when it comes to diverse representation. And by diverse, what we mean is anyone who isn’t a white man. Sure, we’ve seen the introduction of emojis of colour, but we have yet to see women in a range of jobs, women who aren’t idealised beauty incarnate, or Muslim women.

So it comes as no surprise that a call for a Muslim emoji has been made, and people are loving it.

The request was made by a Saudi teenager to the Unicode Consortium – the non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis.

Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, who lives in Berlin, was frustrated by the lack of options on her emoji keypad, feeling unable to represent herself when she messaged her friends. So she wrote to Apple asking when she could expect to see a woman in a headscarf represented. But she never heard back from them. Instead of waiting for them to respond, Alhumedhi sent a request directly to the Unicode Consortium.

Impressed, the consortium replied to her request, and asked for a more formal proposal.

In it, Alhumedhi explains that “roughly 550 million Muslim women on this earth pride themselves on wearing the hijab. With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them.”

Speaking to the BBC, the teenager says:

“In this day and age, representation is extremely important. 

“People want to be acknowledged... and recognised, especially in the tech world. This is massive. Emojis are everywhere.

“There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf. It might seem trivial... but it's different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world. Once you experience that, it's really great.”

The idea has piqued the interest of Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, who started an online debate, asking what people thought. In the discussion, Alhumedhi explains that, despite comments which suggested the headscarf oppresses women:

“It might seem baffling, but when I wear the head scarf I actually feel liberated because I’m in control of what I want to cover.”

“The head scarf allows for people to see past a woman’s beauty and see her for her knowledge,” she continues.

The debate comes as the veil is hotly debated across Europe.

If the teenager’s proposal is accepted, the hijab emoji could be available as soon as 2017.


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Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall is a former Stylist contributor.