Where does come from?
Let’s start by talking about what a hijab is—and isn’t. A hijab is a traditional scarf, worn by Muslim women, that covers the hair and neck. It’s very different from a burqa, which covers the entire face and body. As with any outward display of faith for millions of Muslim women around the world, the choice to wear a hijab (or any other covering) is a highly personal and contextualized one.
There have been calls on social media for a hijab emoji since at least 2012, and suggestions to the Unicode Consortium for hijab emoji and emoji modifiers at least as far back as 2014.
The push to finally make it happen, however, was led by a young Muslim woman who wanted to see herself and the hijab-wearing women in her life represented in emoji. In September 2016, a 15-year-old girl named Rayouf Alhumedhi partnered with graphic designer Aphelandra Messer, community organizer Ayisha Irfan, Unicode Emoji Subcommittee member Jennifer 8. Lee, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian to submit a detailed proposal for a hijab emoji to Unicode. This was bolstered by the launch of a website centered around the cause, an online petition, and a lot of press coverage, both in the US and abroad.
Unicode approved the emoji in in May 2017 as part of their Emoji 5.0 set, and it was released in June 2017 as part of Unicode 10.0. The emoji is formed with a sequence of the woman emoji 👩 and scarf emoji 🧣, and modifiers are available for skin tone and gender. On many platforms, like Apple, Samsung, and Twitter, the person with headscarf emoji displays a woman wearing a purple hijab. WhatsApp features a green headscarf while Microsoft’s is tan, all as shown in the screenshot from Emojipedia below.
In November 2017, Rayouf Alhumedhi was named one of Time’s most influential teenagers in the world for her leadership in making the person with headscarf emoji a reality.
Who uses ?
Before person with headscarf emoji was available, social-media users had to compensate by using things like sticker packs. Bitmoji, which has a widely-used integration with Snapchat, did allow users to add a hijab to their avatar, but that’s not really the same thing as including a woman wearing a headscarf on an emoji keyboard in the first place. Another way around the headscarf gap was the person wearing turban 👳 emoji, but it’s worth noting that that’s not quite appropriate, as turbans are primarily worn by Sikh men and men in only certain sects of Islam.
Today, person with headscarf emoji is mainly used by the Muslim community on social media to proudly represent themselves in a more accurate way. It most often shows up attached to pictures of hijabs, celebrations of achievements by Muslim women, or just generally with women who wear the hijab (hijabi). Because Islam is a global religion, the emoji is used by millions around the world.
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After 102 years we finally made it sis 🧕🏾❤️ pic.twitter.com/xF62aaE0cH
— Halima Aden (@Kinglimaa) April 1, 2018
… and because racists ruin everything: The person with headscarf emoji is also sometimes used by Islamophobic people taking jabs at Islam, Muslim people in general, and even specific Muslim individuals.
Dear PM @narendramodi, this Mufti is slapping Indian women across the face because they’re demanding basic human rights. We need an investigation into his behaviour behind closed doors. This is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/wDaoNrj8g1
— Imam Tawhidi (@Imamofpeace) July 18, 2018
Less bad, but still not totally appropriate: Sometimes person with headscarf emoji is used by non-Muslims posting photos of scarves in their hair. Again, a hijab has an important cultural and religious context that your fave fall scarf doesn’t quite have …
While 🧕 tends to be referred to in the media as the hijab emoji, its official name is person with headscarf. This is partly to keep it inclusive, both culturally and gender-wise, because not all headscarves are hijabs, as noted. As for the cultural aspect, Alhumedhi’s proposal acknowledged that it isn’t just the Muslim community that wears veils. Although the person with headscarf emoji is primarily meant to show a hijab, it can also potentially be used for veils worn in Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, and other faiths.