The teen behind the new hijab emoji
Apple celebrated World Emoji Day on Monday by unveiling new emoji characters available on Apple devices later this year. One of which can be appreciated by headscarf-wearing women all over, thanks to a 16 year-old Saudi girl.
Rayouf Alhumedhi, who now lives in Vienna, proposed the idea last year to The Unicode Consortium, the non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis.
She first came up with the idea during a conversation with her friends over the creation of a group chat on WhatsApp.
“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,” she said. “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.”
After sending a quick draft proposal to Unicode, Alhumedhi received rapid support. Jennifer 8. Lee, a member of the Unicode emoji subcommittee, was able to link her with Aphee Messer, who helped the teen design the emoji.
Alhumedhi saw the new emoji for the first time Monday night when a friend sent her a message linking to a BuzzFeed article. “I got the news just like everybody else!” she said.
She expressed to CNN her appreciation for Apple accepting it and how she is “really happy with what it looks like.” She elaborates more on her reaction to the reveal of the emoji by saying,”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.”
The reaction on social media has been evenly mixed following the release of the emojis.
Although many people were supportive, some described the emoji as “unnecessary” and a “part of patriarchal constructs that oppress women.” Others are all for the new character and Apple’s greater efforts to diversify its emojis, one user tweeting,”My faith in humanity is slowly being restored.”
Alhumedhi is fully aware that the emoji 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.”
She also hopes that it will advocate tolerance. Her desire is that once this image is seen on our phones, it will establish headscarf-wearing women as “normal people carrying out daily routines just like you,”
“I wanted to be represented, as simple as that. I just wanted an emoji of me.”