This Muslim teen designed the first-ever hijab emoji

There has been a rise in the number of women calling for better representation on smartphone keyboards

News Desk September 15, 2016
ANIMATION: APHEE MESSER

A Muslim teen in Germany has been disappointed yet again with the latest emoji options on her smartphone keyboard and found it difficult to express herself with only a princess and bride available to represent women.

Wondering why there couldn't be a symbol of a woman wearing a hijab like the one she wears, Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, took the official step of drafting a proposal featuring a hijab emoji for the subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organisation that develops and promotes software internationalisation standards.

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Earlier, Alhumedhi had written to Apple with her request but received no response. After some online research, the teen found a way to suggest a new emoji and included a brief history of the hijab and research to show its importance.

“In the age of digitalisation, pictures prove to be a crucial element in communication,” the proposal says. “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.”

Alhumedhi was born in Saudi Arabia and now lives in Berlin where she attends high school. Having started wearing the scarf at the age of 13, she has never been harassed for covering her hair but has seen people giving her some hard stares.

ANIMATION: APHEE MESSER

“We need to be represented with the amount of diversity, the amount of difference in this world,” she said.


“I would like to be represented and acknowledged,” she wrote in an online discussion. “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.”


In efforts to increase the emoji representation for women, Alhumedhi is flying to California in November to present her proposal to Unicode’s full technical committee, which includes an option for an emoji for Muslim men who wear a kaffiyeh. If approved, it will become a “candidate emoji” for acceptance into Unicode 10, to be announced in June 2017, and would be adopted that fall.


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Alexis Ohanian, a founder of Reddit and a prominent supporter of Alhumedhi's hijab emoji said he viewed her proposal as part of a continuing effort to make technology more inclusive of women and other groups that feel marginalised.


“Emoji may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one more way for a lot of people to feel acknowledged and represented — and that is a good thing,” he said.


There has been a rise in the number of women calling for better representation on smartphone keyboards, which they say do not allow them to represent themselves sufficiently in their daily communication with people. Four women who work at Google earlier proposed that the female emojis should be expanded to reflect some of the professions women are engaged in including business, education, farming and technology.

This article originally appeared on The New York Times

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COMMENTS (2)

Haji Atiya | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend If that gets official sanction then there should be an emoji for turbaned Sikh men, if there isn't one already.
Jawad U Rahman | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend This is an Arab emoji, not a Muslim one. Majority of Muslims in the world don't look or dress like that
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