When 70 new emoji came into the world this past June, there were avocados and face palms and even pregnant women, but no head scarf. A new proposal by 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi seeks to remedy that and bring our favorite pictographs one step closer to inclusivity.
Alhumedhi, a Saudi Arabian teen who is currently living in Berlin, has a comprehensive argument as to why we so desperately need a head scarf emoji. In a proposal she's worked up for the Unicode Consortium, the international standards group that decides on new emoji, Alhumedhi says that 550 million women wear a head scarf, noting that there is "not a single space on the keyboard reserved for them."
The very clever proposal adds a head scarf emoji, and then uses a Zero Width Joiner (ZWJ) sequence to join it to existing emoji. This means that the headscarf could be joined with the woman emoji to render a hijab, or the man emoji to render a keffiyah. This also means that the emoji people wearing the scarves will have the full range of skin tones, and if the emoji prove popular, the headscarf could be coupled with children emoji in the future.
The headscarf would join a few other emoji that represent Islamic culture. Currently we have the mosque 🕌, the star and crescent ☪, and the Kabbah 🕋. Some users have also pointed out they use 📿 as tasbih; since so many different religions use prayer beads, the emoji is flexible in its use, and could also easily represent mala or a rosary depending on the context.
Alhumedhi has proposed that the same could be true of the headscarf emoji, reminding the council that both Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity use head coverings as a symbol of devotion. This addition would allow people to retain that piousness in their digital communications. In a discussion on Reddit about the new hijab emoji proposal, user The_Hermione_Granger said, "I always feel a little embarrassed using emojis without a headscarf, compromising m'modesty for memes."
She's not the only one who is excited about the possibility of a headscarf emoji; it's currently the 5th most requested emoji on Emojipedia. Of course, popularity on Emojipedia does not guarantee the Unicode Council will create a new emoji, but the Council does take into account how frequently requested an emoji is when voting on proposals. With that in mind, a new site launched earlier this month that seeks to close the gap between what the people want, and how the council votes. EmojiRequest already has 314 requests for the hijab emoji.
Alhumedhi's quest for a more inclusive emoji set has drawn the attention of Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder, and Jennifer 8 Lee, who successfully launched the campaign for the dumpling emoji last year. With these two to boost the visibility of the proposal and help her navigate the bureaucracy of the Unicode Council, Alhumedhi may well succeed in her quest. She tells Buzzfeed News that she plans to submit the formal proposal soon.
“I feel like it would be a huge achievement,” she said.
Cara Rose DeFabio is a pop addicted, emoji fluent, transmedia artist, focusing on live events as an experience designer for Real Future.