Why a Hijab 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.
Hijab in Arabic translates to “partition” or “barrier.” The hijab symbolizes modesty, privacy and religious identity. Excluding family members, the hijab is worn in the presence of men. Women all across the globe choose to wear the headscarf because of its evident indication of their faith and identity. However, the hijab stretches much further than a piece of cloth on your head. It also influences the way you talk, the way you act and ultimately, your lifestyle. To say it’s an integral aspect of women’s lives is an understatement.
We need the hijab emoji for Muslim countries. This includes Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, where the Muslim population is 202 million. And in Egypt, the 15th most populous country in the world, the percentage of women wearing headscarves is 90%.
The Back Story
When Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15 at the time, was creating a new WhatsApp group chat with her friends last year, the group wanted to make the title of the group a series of emojis: one to represent each girl. But Rayouf had a problem—none of the emojis really looked like her, because she’s Muslim, and wears a hijab.
Given the millions of women in the world who wear a headscarf every day, this seemed like a gross oversight.
So she set out on a mission to fix that. First she fired off an email to Apple, but never heard back.
A few months later, in August 2016, she saw Mashable's Snapchat story on how to submit an emoji proposal to Unicode. She then spent two days typing up the proposal, using the dumpling emoji and female runner emoji proposals as models.
After she sent it in, she heard back from Jennifer 8. Lee, a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee who had been thinking about the need for a hijab emoji. Rayouf's initial submission was a well-formed proposal, Jenny thought, as anybody who mentions Fitzpatrick modifiers knows what they are talking about.
Together, they began further changes and improvements to make the proposal more robust.
However, all emoji proposals need example glyphs. So Jenny asked Aphee Messer, a designer from Lincoln, Nebraska to work on the hijab emoji designs. After several revisions, they found ones that worked.
Rayouf plans on taking time off from school to present her proposal at Emojicon and the Unicode Technical Committee meeting in November.
If the hijab emoji proposal passes n November, it would become an emoji candidate for Unicode 10, which will be released in June 2017.
Vendors like Google and Apple often update their emoji in the fall after a Unicode release. So if all goes smoothly, the hijab emoji will be coming to a phone near you in fall of 2017.
Who is Behind the Hijab Emoji Proposal?
Lead Hijab Emoji Proposer
Rayouf Alhumedhi (rayoufalhumedhi at gmail dot com) is a 16-year-old high school student living in Vienna, Austria. She takes keen interest in issues concerning social equality. She has been wearing a hijab since she was 13 years old. She became interested in emoji after trying to find an image to represent her and her friends on her iPhone keyboard. After first writing in on Apple’s website, she finally learned from Mashable’s Snapchat story how to properly submit a proposal to Unicode.
Hijab Emoji Artist
Aphee Messer is a freelance graphic designer based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her creative pursuits include illustration, typography, and of course, emoji design. In her past life as an English major, she researched the importance of diversity in film and literature, and has been looking for ways to combine her passions for design and social justice ever since. She believes that everyone has the right to be represented in media, whether it's a book, a movie, a TV show, or even the emoji keyboard.
Hijab Emoji Advocate
Alexis Ohanian is the co-founder of Reddit, tech investor, and bestselling author of Without Their Permission. As a white American man he's greatly benefited from the different perspectives he's found on communities like r/islam where people are speaking freely about feeling marginalized. 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's a good thing. ⬆️
Jennifer 8. Lee
Unicode Emoji Subcommittee Member
Jennifer 8. Lee is a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee and an organizer of Emojicon, a conference of all things emoji that will take place in San Francisco on November 4-6, 2016. She successfully lobbied for the dumpling emoji in early 2016. She started Emojination, a group whose motto is "emoji by the people, for the people." When she's not being an emoji activist, Jenny is the cofounder of Plympton, a literary studio. She's also a former New York Times journalist, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, and producer of The Search for General Tso.
Thoughts from Aphee Messer
The whole idea of the hijab emoji is to provide representation to people, so naturally we want it to represent as many people as possible. My first attempt at the emoji had the woman in a dark purple headscarf; during revisions, we decided that a more neutral, fawn color would work better. Giving the headscarf a neutral color ensures that the emojis can apply to as many people in as many countries as possible, which is an important goal for us.
Of course, technical considerations are also important—namely, making the emoji look good at a small size. That's the main limitation of emoji design. You have to think in terms of simple, recognizable shapes, resisting the urge to throw in a bunch of cute little details. But I've found that having a limitation such as this pushes me to think more creatively, which is a good thing for any design.
Hijab emoji has hit the news on five continents!
The New York Times. September 14, 2016. By Melissa Eddy
Al Arabiya English. September 15, 2016
Hijab emoji has hit the news on five continents! Demonstrating the power of Unicode below.
Europa Press, Spain. September 14, 2016.
DR, Denmark. September 14, 2016.
The Post Internazionale, Italy. September 14, 2016.
La Repubblica, Italy. September 14, 2016.
CNN Arabic. September 15, 2016.