15-Year-Old Pushes for Headscarf Emoji

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When 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi scrolls through the emoji on her iPhone, she doesn't see any familiar faces.

The Muslim teenager has worn a headscarf since age 13. Disappointed by the lack of representation of girls like her and her friends, she took matters into her own hands. With the help of illustrator and graphic designer Aphelandra Messer, Emojination founder Jennifer 8. Lee, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Alhumedhi drafted a proposal that was submitted to the Unicode Technical Committee.

In it, she requests the addition of new emoji: "woman in a headscarf/hijab," "man in a headscarf," and the scarf as a loose item of clothing.

"We applaud Unicode for the diversification of emojis in recent years," Alhumedhi's proposal said. "However, this does not mean it should stop now. With the amount of difference in this world, we must be represented."

Roughly 550 million Muslim women wear the hijab, a symbol of modesty, privacy, and religious identity, worn in front of men (excluding family members).

"With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them," the statement said. "With the help of the Fitzpatrick Modifier, we would be able to develop an emoji that represents the religious and racial diversity that is present in the Muslim community."

According to Alhumedhi's research, Snapchat's Bitmoji is the only social platform that currently includes a woman in a headscarf: Users have the option to add a hijab to their avatar. Unicode's religious offerings already includes a mosque, Islam symbol (star and crescent), and "man with turban," as well as a cross, menorah, and prayer beads, among others.

The Unicode Consortium did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.

Emoji are more popular than ever; millions of people share them to convey feelings, thoughts, and stories. But until recently, many of those people were not well represented by the figures on their phones. Nearly two years ago, Unicode moved to broaden the range of skin tones for human emoji, using the Fitzpatrick scale—a standard for dermatology.

In early 2015, Apple highlighted its new lineup of racially diverse stickers, followed by this month's release of additional skin colors and more gender diversity among iOS 10 characters.

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