When a group of friends in Berlin recently formed a WhatsApp group chat, the teens agreed to use emojis instead of names to identify themselves.
But as they created their cartoon alter egos by selecting the skin tones and hair colors that matched their own, Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, who wears a hijab, found none that corresponded with her appearance.
Given that traditional headscarves are worn by some 550 million Muslim women worldwide, Alhumedhi proposed a hijab-wearing character to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that sets international standards for software, including emojis.
The idea intrigued a consortium member, who offered to guide Alhumedhi as she drafted a more detailed proposal. It is expected to be formally considered in November, and if it wins approval, the hijab emoji will be available on operating systems by late 2017.
Emojis are influential and help people communicate across language barriers, Alhumedhi told the Washington Post. “Emoji are everywhere,” she said.