EL SEGUNDO, CA— Mattel, maker of the popular Barbie doll, has un-veiled its first hijabwearing Barbie to honor an American Olympic fencer, as the traditional Islamic headscarf goes mainstream through catwalks, magazine covers and “emoji” Smartphone symbols.
Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in Rio last year as the first U.S. Olympian to represent her country wearing a hijab, after earlier winning a gold medal in 2014 at the world fencing championships in Russia.
“I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear [a] hijab! This is a childhood dream come true,” the Olympian posted on Twitter late Monday.
The hijab — one of the most visble signs of Islamic culture — is becoming increasingly popular with Western businesses, from hijab-wearing models in top fashion magazines to Apple’s recently launched “emoji” character in a hijab. The hijab-wearing Barbie is part of Mattel’s “Shero” line, which recognizes women “who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls”, and will go on sale next year, the company said.
“Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented,” Barbie’s marketing vice president Sejal Shah Miller said in a statement. “By honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.”
Many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab as a sign of modesty.
According to a CBS News report, Muhammad had a major role in designing the doll. Other dolls in the collection include African American ballerina Misty Copeland and Ava DuVernay, director of “Selma”, a highly-acclaimed film about the U.S. civil rights movement. In November, Danish toymaker Lego released figurines of five women scientists, engineers and astronauts who worked for NASA to inspire more girls to pursue careers in science.