Meet the Saudi teen behind the hijab… emoji!

Rayouf Alhumedhi
Rayouf Alhumedhi

Rayouf Alhumedhi

A dedicated “hijabi emoji” is set to appear on smartphones for the first time — and a 15-year-old Saudi teen is behind it.

Rayouf Alhumedhi, who was born in Riyadh and now lives in Germany, proposed the new emoji sign, which has been successfully approved and is due to appear in June 2017.

The new image, proposed with four other people, is among the annual slew of new emoji signs launched by the Unicode Consortium, which accepts requests for new emoji to be added.

“Roughly 550 million Muslim women on this earth pride themselves on wearing the hijab,” the proposal stated. “With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them.”

The idea stemmed from what Alhumedhi calls her “frustration and complete bewilderment” that most phone apps don’t include an image of a female figure wearing a head covering.

“I was aware of the great number of hijabi women who do use social media technology,” she told Arab News.

The hijabi emoji is a proposal for ‘Unicode 10’, and is one of 51 characters that — subject to technical reviews — will be available on popular handsets including Apple and Android phones.

“It has been accepted, now they just have to work out all the other details,” said Alhumedhi.

The teen says news of the new emoji has had a mixed reaction, with many people — Muslim and non-Muslims — welcoming the idea.

Twitter user Ridha Hassoun was among them: “A hijab emoji. In a world that is increasingly backwards, there is hope that technology will continue to be progressive,” Hassoun wrote.

Others, however, have been less positive. But Alhumedhi said she thinks it is important to include the emoji, and hopes it will help reduce the stigma of wearing the hijab seen in some countries, as well as making people realize that the garment is not a sign of oppression. “I think it will alter that (way) of thinking, hopefully,” she said.

Alhumedhi, who herself chooses to wear a head covering, says that all her friends are excited about the launch of the emoji.

“They’re really excited that this emoji will come to life because of me, their friend,” she said. “I told my friends that, when it is on a keyboard, it will be the only emoji that we’ll be using.”


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