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Hijab emoji widely defended after some said it symbolizes the ‘oppression of women’

Apple announced Monday that the emoji of a woman wearing a hijab would be available on its devices later in 2017.
Apple announced Monday that the emoji of a woman wearing a hijab would be available on its devices later in 2017. Apple

Every time Apple announces new emojis, it seems to stir some controversy. Monday was no exception.

The new emojis, which included less controversial figures such as a dinosaur, a zebra, a zombie and a sandwich, also included a woman wearing a hijab. The hijab is a head covering worn around the hair and neck mostly by Muslim women.

That prompted some negative backlash online, but not as much as some people seemed to expect.

But most online reaction to the hijab emoji was positive, with some shooting down the criticism of it.

The hijab emoji was proposed by 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi, who said the idea was inspired by a WhatsApp group chat with her friends. The girls had wanted the title of the group to be a series of emojis that looked like them, but Alhumedhi, who wears a hijab, couldn’t find one that resembled her.

“Millions of women wear the headscarf. And not just Muslim women, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, they pride themselves in wearing it,” Alhumedhi told AJ+. “And there’s a guy wearing the turban, which is great, they represent Sikhs, which is amazing. But why isn’t there a headscarf emoji?”

She first emailed Apple to see if they would fix her problem, but didn’t hear back. So she researched how to send an emoji proposal into Unicode, and spent two days typing up the proposal. Jennifer 8. Lee, a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, helped her fully develop the proposal, asked Aphee Messe to design it, and got support from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

“I’m pretty sure everyone in the world thinks that emojis are insignificant, it’s just a little thing on your keyboard you use to portray emotions, feelings, yourself,” Alhumedhi said. “But adding different color skin tones, adding different couples, will hopefully promote diversity and tolerance.”

Alhumedhi told AJ+ she was “speechless” that the emoji would actually be on her phone’s keyboard soon.

The new emojis will be available “sometime later this year,” according to Apple.

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