Self-Expression for All

The hijab emoticon will give a way for self-expression for millions of Muslim women and girls around the world.

31 Jan 2017 By:Dorottya Kosa

Why is it happening ?

Muslim women usually wear something to mantle their heads, their faces or their bodies. There is a debate about the ideal covering of women’s body even among scholars of Islam. Likewise, it is unclear that wearing a veil for women is obligatory because of religious causes or cultural/sociological reasons. There are many different ways to cover a woman’s body in Islam. Amongst them are the: Burqa, the veil that covers the whole body, even the face; It is usually blue or black, and sometimes has a tiny “window” to let women see out; the Niqab covers the head and the face but not the eyes; It is usually black and it covers the body from head to feet; the Chador is a full-length veil typically closed in the front under arms; It is popular among Iranian women; Finally, the Hijab, known as headscarf, which covers the hair and the neck but not the face. The Hijab and Al-Amira (a type of Hijab which is a tight textile not just a veil) are the two most popular forms to cover the face and body, more than 56% of Muslim women wear them.

Why does it matter?

Islam constitutes the world’s second largest religion. Muslim people make up over 23% of the world’s population according to a worldwide study conducted in 2011. Islam is dominant mostly in the Middle East, North Africa and in some parts of Asia; Western Europe also has large communities of Muslim immigrants. Yet, despite the historical, social, and demographic importance Muslims and Muslim women play all over the world, an emoji for Muslim women to represent themselves does not exist. Emojis and emoticons took over as the to go mannerism by which the world communicates. They are used to facilitate self-expression without words. These tiny pictograms can represent activities, objects, expressions, as well as humans. As emoji collections contain all kinds of people it is important that Muslim communities and women in particular are represented and not deny the right to self-expression.

To that end, Rayouf Alhumedhi, a 15-year-old Muslim student living in Berlin, wrote an email to the Apple Customer Support Group about an emoji for Muslim women. When she received no response she started a campaign to petition for an emoji women wearing a hijab to Unicode, the authority that approves, denies and develops new emojis. She wanted to be able to express herself and to give the opportunity of self-expression to the other roughly 550 million Muslim women. Thanks to her petition, Apple announced that, by the middle of 2017, Unicode 10 (the latest emoji list) will feature a hijab emoticon together with other Muslim symbols.

What can you do about it?

Even if it sounds like a cliché, big things start with small steps. Therefore, by creating a new emoticon, Apple provided an easy self-expression tool to Muslim girls around the world. Millennials need to initiate more actions like Rayouf’s petition. Mainly, because big companies, brands, and names will pay attention to the importance of diversity; which can raise awareness and tolerance. Open minded initiatives even on social media should be supported because online existence influences real life actions.

Dorottya Kosa briefs regularly from Swansea,Wales, UK. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.