On Thursday, Unicode approved 56 new emojis to hit your phone in 2017 — including, crucially, the hijab emoji, along with a breastfeeding emoji, a pretzel emoji, and a "shocked face with exploding head," among others. Considering the wave of Islamophobia unleashed in the wake of Donald Trump becoming president-elect, including a student being ripped from her hijab on campus and a Muslim American Wal-Mart shopper being harassed by another woman insisting that her hijab "is not allowed anymore," the inclusion of the hijab emoji in the Unicode emoji library is a late, but necessary, addition.
President-elect Donald Trump, of course, notoriously promised to ban each and every Muslim from entering the United States as president. Now that he's been elected, the anti-Muslim rhetoric has mysteriously disappeared from his official website, but the damage is done: Muslim Americans are one of the several marginalized groups who are not sure they are welcome in President Trump's America. In a campaign ad for Hillary Clinton, Gold Star parent Khizr Khan, for example, memorably asked Trump: "Would my son have a place in your America?" His son was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004.
Although Trump has held back from explicitly Islamophobic rhetoric in the last few months, his supporters have been empowered to discriminate against Muslims as Trump does. Since Trump was elected president this week, anti-Muslim attacks in America have spiked. The implication is that Muslim Americans are somehow "less" American, and that they have links to terrorism — even though though Islam is a fundamentally peaceful religion, almost all Muslims practice it peacefully, and Muslims are more at risk from Islamic terrorists like ISIS than any other group.
Normalizing the hijab, as Unicode has done with its latest addition, is a vital step towards making clear that wearing the hijab is a peaceful and commonplace act.
The official proposal for the hijab emoji notes:
Roughly 550 million Muslim women on this earth pride themselves on wearing the hijab. With this enormous number of people, not a single space on the keyboard is reserved for them. Most obviously, women wearing the hijab aren’t mutually exclusive to one skin tone, so 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.
One of the four individuals who submitted the proposal is Rayouf Alhumedhi, a 15-year old girl living in Berlin. The proposal reads:
She has been wearing a hijab since she was 13 years old. She became interested in emoji after trying to find an image to represent her and her friends on her iPhone keyboard. After first writing in on Apple’s website, she finally learned from Mashable’s Snapchat story how to properly submit a proposal to Unicode.
Congratulations, Rayouf. We needed this.