Muslim women around the world will now be able to use a hijabi emoji, thanks to a 16-year-old Saudi girl who proposed the idea which was made available last Monday on World Emoji Day.
“I’m really happy with what it looks like,” Rayouf Alhumedhi, who now lives in Vienna, told CNN on Tuesday, July 18.
“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.”
Alhumedhi proposed the idea last year to The Unicode Consortium, the non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis.
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.
Emojis, the smartphone icons which have been called “the world’s fastest growing language”, have been diversifying in recent years.
Noticing the absence of special Emojis showing women in hijab, Alhumedhi decided to take an action.
“My friends and I were creating a group chat on WhatsApp,” Alhumedhi told CNN in an interview last year, “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,” 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.”
The young Saudi teenage first tried to contact Apple customer service about it, then learned from Mashable that she should write to Unicode Consortium, a not-for-profit organization that standardizes text on computers.
She drafted a proposal on her laptop and sent it to Unicode. “I did it very quickly. I did not understand how big a deal this was,” she said Tuesday, reflecting on the process.
Alhumedhi is aware that the emoji is contentious. “It will cause controversy,” she said Tuesday. “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.”