Emoji Protoype from Worldreligionnews.com
In the Muslim community, women often express themselves by wearing a hijab or headdress in public to represent their religion. The hijab is also worn to represent other religions such as Judaism or Christianity, and has been a symbol to women for centuries all over the globe. In recent years, a new form of expression in communication for newer generations has been the invention of emoticons or “emojis” that can be added to text, email, or status updates on social media. Emojis have become a new way to express oneself, one’s emotions, or just to add extra flair. Millennials are referring to emojis as the new hieroglyphics. When a 15-year-old Saudi Arabian teenage girl was texting her friends using Whatsapp, she realized that there was not an emoji that had a woman wearing a hijab, and felt limited on her use of emoticons. There were emojis of churches, ability to change skin tones, and even emojis that represented the LGTBQ community, but not one to represent her Muslim cultural tradition. That’s when the teenager, Rayouf Alhumedhi decided to change that.
Rayouf Alhumedhi began her journey towards change by writing to Apple about her idea of adding an emoji with a woman wearing a hijab to the emoticon keyboard, but received no response. Feeling a little discouraged, she began to research methods on how to accomplish her idea. She found on snapchat that she could submit a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis. She immediately received a reply from Jennifer Lee, a member of the Unicode emoji subcommittee. Typically, a proposal to the Unicode Consortium on a new emoji is lengthy, including prototypes and great detail on how the emoji should look and how it can become a part of the keyboard. Getting an emoji from idea to reality is actually quite the process. It involves a written proposal, revisions, and committee meetings, as well as design and support from all carriers that have emojis on their devices. Luckily, Ms. Alhumedhi got help from Ms. Lee to write a proper proposal to the committee because she really loved her idea, and could not believe that it had not been thought of sooner. Not only could the emoji be used as a representation of religion, but it could also be used to express woman who have cancer, for sometimes, they like to wear a headdress to cover up their heads and feel more confident.
Soon, everyone knew and supported Rayouf’s proposal. “Women all across the globe choose to wear the headscarf because of its evident indication of their faith and identity. However, the hijab stretches much further than a piece of cloth on your head. It also influences the way you talk, the way you act, and ultimately, your lifestyle,” Ms. Alhumedhi wrote in her proposal to the Unicode Consortium. She believes that having an emoji on the keyboard will bring more awareness to women in the world who wear headdresses and try to normalize the idea. To Rayouf, the hijab allows her to cover up her beauty so others can see her for her knowledge. How could you not support an emoji that will symbolize over 550 million strong woman and their beliefs all over the globe?
One supporter of Rayouf’s emoji idea is Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of the Reddit website that has millions of followers. Ohanian hosted an online broadcast discussion where Ms. Alhumedhi talked about her idea to Reddit followers. Some people were opposed to the idea, calling it “unnecessary” or a “symbol of oppression”, but most were completely onboard. “Emojis may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one more way for a lot of people to feel acknowledged and represented – and that’s a good thing,” Alexis Ohanian said during his broadcast.
The Unicode Consortium has approved the idea of a woman (and man) in a hijab emoji and should be released as soon as June of next year with the revised iOS update. Emojis have slowly started to diversify, in response to make the symbols more representative of the people who use them. They have also agreed to include more religious diversity in their emojis, such as synagogue and prayer beads. As newer generations are pushing more on different ways of communicating through emojis, Unicode Consortium claims it is only trying to “keep up”. It was only a matter of time.
In this case, media has definitely played a positive role that has benefitted Rayouf Alhumedhi’s proposal, and made her, as well as many women across the globe, feel supported and accepted in her practices. Kelsey Price tweeted “It’s the little things that sometimes give hope for the future. There’s going to be a hijab emoji! *insert heart-eyed emoji here*,” which gives us the impression that everyone is onboard to this new idea. The media is bringing others who agree on the subject together and giving more of a reason why a woman wearing a headdress should be included in emojis, which is incredible to think about, considering not too long ago women were being spit at and harassed for wearing a hijab. I believe if the Unicode Consortium denied Rayouf Alhumedhi’s idea, the media would have stirred up some kind of uprising, maybe even cause a boycott of the use of emojis until religions are allowed to express themselves freely. Bringing up the issue of emojis lacking certain religious factors have revealed other ideas of how to included other religions into emojis for self-expression. Religion is a part of our everyday lives, whether we know it or not. The world itself is becoming more and more diverse and understanding of other’s practices and having technology like emojis creates a connection between all religions that would otherwise be unnoticed and/or unaccepted.