Flashback to September, 2016, when a 15 year old Saudi teenager living in Germany proposed designing a headscarf emoji.
Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, has sent a proposal to The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis.
The veil issue is part of a wider debate about multiculturalism in Europe, as many politicians argue that there needs to be a greater effort to assimilate ethnic and religious minorities.
‘Emojis are everywhere’
Rayouf Alhumedhi told the BBC it was during a group chat with her friends on social media that she had realised there was no emoji to represent her, a headscarf-wearing woman.
“In this day and age, representation is extremely important,” she said of her reasons behind the project.
“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.
Some wanted to see whether they could get involved while others questioned the need for the hijab, saying it was a tool to oppress.
Since the emoji was introduced onto iPhones in 2011 we’ve seen little yellow smileys diversify in ways such as skin colour, gender and sexuality. And, as controversial as it was of an announcement, the Oxford Dictionary naming the “Face with Tears of Joy” as 2015s word of the year only underlined our global interest of emoji.
“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,” writes Alhumedhi
What has the reaction been since you shared your proposal?
Rayouf Alhumedhi: The reaction has definitely been mixed and that’s to be expected. Some really are supporting the idea and have helped push it through signing petitions and requests. On the other hand, there were many not fully on board and believed that the hijab emoji would be an unnecessary addition.
Why do you think the hijab emoji has been overlooked until now?
Rayouf Alhumedhi: I personally believe that the inclusion of a headscarf emoji has been disregarded because no one formally did something about it. Although, petitions are helpful in getting some things done, they don’t always prove to be the best method of implementing something. If more people were aware of how to submit and request an emoji, I believe a proposal would have been created a while back.
You mention in your proposal that the headscarf is often seen as an item of oppression rather than a signifier of identity – why do you think this?
Rayouf Alhumedhi: The hijab is seen as a symbol of oppression by many due to the fact that several unfortunate incidents happened in which women were forced and assaulted to wear it. And these horrible events are what reach major news headlines, thus people generalise all women wearing the headscarf as being oppressed. Which is why it’s extremely hard for people to grasp the notion that a Muslim woman can have a choice. I, my mother and my friends have a choice. And that choice is to wear the hijab.
BBC News Middle East.(2016) .Headscarf emoji proposed by 15-year-old Saudi girl.
Available From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37358719
[Accessed: 12th December 2016]
Kane, A. (2016). The 15-year-old Saudi girl behind the potential hijab emoji.
[Accessed: 13th November 2016]