Saudi teen proposes emoji wearing headscarf

Ms Alhumedhi sent a proposal to The Unicode Consortium for her emoji.
Ms Alhumedhi sent a proposal to The Unicode Consortium for her emoji.PHOTO: TWITTER ACCOUNT OF REDDIT

BERLIN • Even as some countries struggle with the idea of Muslim women wearing the hijab, a Saudi teenager living in Germany has proposed the creation of an emoji that sports the headscarf.

Fifteen-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi said the idea came to her during a group chat with her friends on social media, when she realised there was no emoji to represent her, a hijab-wearing girl. That prompted her to send a proposal to The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organisation that reviews and develops new emojis. She got the idea after reading an article about emoji design, reported the BBC.

Her message generated interest in a member of a Unicode sub-committee, who offered to help her draft a formal proposal. The idea has also gained the backing of Mr Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of online discussion forum Reddit.

If approved, the emoji will be available next year.

"In this day and age, representation is extremely important," Ms Alhumedhi said. "People want to be acknowledged... and recognised, especially in the tech world."

"There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf. It might seem trivial... but it's different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world," she said.

To boost support for the proposal, Mr Ohanian hosted a live Reddit discussion on Tuesday where users could ask Ms Alhumedhi about her idea. Some wanted to get involved, while others questioned the need for an emoji with a hijab, asserting that it oppressed women.

The drafting committee is looking to present a final version of the proposal to Unicode in November, the BBC reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Saudi teen proposes emoji wearing headscarf'. Print Edition | Subscribe