[According to the then 15-year-old, she felt disturbed that female Muslims did not have any emojis that represented them, Pulse Nigeria reported.]
Riyadh: On July 17, 2017, Apple CEO, Tim Cook announced plans to release the first ever Hijab emoji. The announcement was made in honor of the World Emoji Day.
While we appreciate the tech company for the religious diversity, it is important that we do not forget Rayouf Alhumedhi.
For those who don’t know, she is the 16-year-old Saudi girl responsible for the Hijab emoji.
In 2016, Alhumedhi noticed the absence of her kind, Muslims, in emojis.
According to the then 15-year-old, she felt disturbed that female Muslims did not have any emojis that represented them, Pulse Nigeria reported.
Speaking with the Washington Post, the Saudi teenager said, “My friends, who don’t wear the headscarf, they found something. For me? I had to opt to not use an image of a woman wearing a headscarf, because there isn’t one.”
In another interview with CNN, she said, “My friends and I were creating a group chat on WhatsApp and I obviously had no emoji to represent me.”
“The fact that there wasn’t an emoji to represent me and the millions of other hijabi women across the world was baffling to me. I really had no initial idea in my mind of what it was supposed to look like, I just wanted it to be available in different skin tones — millions of women from different races do wear it.”
Some might ask, “Why is the absence of special emojis of women in hijab such a big deal?”
It is a big deal because emojis have been called “the world’s fastest growing language.” Thus, everyone should be represented in this language.
Alhumedhi, who lives in Germany, immediately took matters into her own hands.
At first, she tried to reach Apple customer service. Through Mashable, she realized that she could write to Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization that standardizes text on computers.
At the organization, her idea gained the support of the co-founder of online discussion forum Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, graphic designer Aphelandra Messer, and journalist Jennifer 8. Lee, who is part of Unicode’s emoji subcommittee.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Out of these people, there are a lot of women who choose to wear a headscarf.
Citing this, Alhumedhi’s proposal states: “With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them.”
She proposed designing the headscarf emoji, adding that hijab serves as ‘an integral aspect of women’s lives.’
She said, “Might seem baffling, but when I wear the headscarf I actually feel liberated because I’m in control of what I want to cover. The headscarf allows for people to see past a woman’s beauty and see her for her knowledge.”
Alhumedhi, who now lives in Vienna, has reacted to the good news in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, July 18th.
She said that she saw the new emoji for the first time when a friend sent her a message with a link to a BuzzFeed article.
In her words, “I got the news just like everybody else!” I’m really happy with what it looks like.
I saw so many ideas, different colors and styles but I didn’t know what it would finally look like. I’m just so excited because it’s finally came out after all the work, all the writing.”
While Alhumedhi is aware that the emoji might annoy some people, she hopes that it makes others, particularly Muslims, happy.
She said, “It will cause controversy. Some people will try and pervert it, use the emoji in a hurtful way to perpetuate stereotypes. But overall, I think the Muslim community will benefit from it, even if only in terms of representation. It’s only an emoji. It’s not a game changer. But it will make people happy. I hope so.”
The hijab emoji, along with other new ones, will be released later this year.