In the age of social media, the emoji is king—so often adding emotion to text that otherwise may be interpreted in everything but what it really meant.
In iOS 9.1, the OS most commonly used on iPhones before the latest iOS 10 release, a total of 1,620 emojis supported, representing different countries, races, foods, emotions etc.; the list is really endless.
However, there is one group that is still not represented on smartphone keyboards: veiled women.
That is about to finally change.
Earlier this week, a Saudi teenager set out to bring to life the first hijab emoji by submitting a proposal to The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis.
In her proposal, 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi said that there are around 550 million Muslim women who wear a headscarf around the world. She also noted that women of other religious background cover their hair.
“In the age of digitalization, pictures prove to be a crucial element in communication,” the proposal reads. “Roughly 550 million Muslim women on this earth pride themselves on wearing the hijab…not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them.”
She also highlighted the fact that “the only social platform that provides emojis for a woman in a hijab is Bitmoji, now part of Snapchat, one of the most popular social platforms in the world.”
The young woman received support from the co-founder of online discussion forum Reddit, Alexis Ohanian who helped co-write the proposal along with American journalist Jennifer 8. Lee.
The proposal also attempted to clarify the significance of the hijab which symbolizes modesty, privacy and religious identity., and also pointed out the roots and history of the headscarf in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In a Reddit AMA, Alhumedi said she would like to be represented and acknowledged.
In her Reddit post, the Saudi teen explained her reasons behind wearing the veil saying: “When I wear the headscarf I actually feel liberated because I’m in control of what I want to cover. The headscarf allows for people to see past a women’s beauty and see her for her knowledge.”
Alhumedhi will present her proposal to the Unicode Consortium in November. If approved, the design will be available in 2017.
This call for a hijab emoji comes at a time where Muslim fashion has sparked a lot of controversy in Europe and other parts of the world after several coastal cities in France banned the full-body burkini.
Supporters of the French bans said that the burkini violates the country’s laws on secularism, with leading politicians describing the garment as a form of female “enslavement”.
However, several critics said that the bans are not only suppressing religious expression but also called them sexist and Islamophobic.
In neighboring Germany, the anti-Islam and anti-hijab sentiment has been also growing especially after the recent terror attacks.