Rayouf Alhumedhi, 16, is making headlines after her hijab emoji was unveiled on World Emoji Day as one of the new characters to become available on Apple devices later this year.
The teen, who is originally from Saudi Arabia and now lives in Austria, told CNN that she came up with the idea to design a hijab emoji when she was unable to find a character to represent her in a WhatsApp group chat.
"The fact that there wasn't an emoji to represent me and the millions of other hijabi women across the world was baffling to me," Alhumedhi said.
When she drafted a proposal for the emoji, the teen had only one criterion in mind: "I just wanted it to be available in different skin tones – millions of women from different races do wear it," Alhumedhi said, referring to the head covering.
While her proposed emoji garnered support from, among others, Reddit's co-founder, reactions on social media have been mixed.
"The hijab is a symbol of oppression. by including it as an emoji you are showing your support for the oppression of women," one Twitter user wrote.
the hijab is a symbol of oppression. by including it as an emoji you are showing your support for the oppression of women.— Joeymp (@joeymp123) July 17, 2017
They are coming out with a woman wearing a hijab and a breastfeeding mom emoji 🙌🏽🙌🏽 My faith in humanity is slowing being restored— ANEGIRL (@haanetaitano) July 18, 2017
The teen said that while she knows the emoji will cause controversy, she hopes it will ultimately create more understanding toward hijab-wearing women.
"I think the Muslim community will benefit from it. Even if only in terms of representation. It's only an emoji. It's not a game changer. But it will make people happy. I hope so," Alhumedhi said.
The 16-year old is also hopeful that the character will make it easier to relate to Muslim women who opt for the veil. Once hijab-wearing women "begin to show up on our phones," she said, "that will establish that notion that we are normal people carrying out daily routines just like you."
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