Barbie, the quintessential American doll, had recently been reinvented to give children across the country a more diverse standard of female beauty. Now, another makeover of the doll has become an Instagram hit: a Muslim Barbie wearing a hijab. Call her “Hijarbie.”
Nigerian medical scientist Haneefa Adam, 24, wanted to create a Barbie that reflected her Muslim roots, so she dressed a Caucasian model in the traditional garb.
“I thought I had not seen Barbie dressed in a hijab before so I decided to open and Instagram account and dressed Barbie up in the clothes that I made,” Adam told CNN. “I thought it was really important for a doll to be dressed like how I would be.”
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Barbie recently underwent a transformation. Toy manufacturer Mattel, experiencing lagging sales for the doll and receptive to the current national mood for increasing diversity, announced at the end of January that Barbie would now come in 33 new varieties, NPR reports.
The new dolls can be customized online, with added body types of petite, tall and curvy, new skin tones and face sculpts. Now, girls across the U.S. of different ethnicities can own a Barbie that looks more like they do.
There is no Hijarbie for sale, but Adam’s creation has become an Instagram star. The medical scientist has posted photos of Hijarbie on the social media site, rapidly gaining 19,400 followers, CNN reports.
“It has roots in my religion and cultural identity,” Adam said. “The way Barbie dresses is very skimpy and different and there’s nothing wrong with it. I just wanted to give another option for Muslim girls like me.”
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Adam added that she has ordered black-skinned Barbie dolls online that she will dress in the Hijab to better reflect her personal identity of an African-American Muslim.
The hijab has become a contentious symbol in the West, with women’s groups protesting that it is a symbol of gender oppression. While several nations in the Middle East require women to wear the hijab by law, most Muslim women in the U.S. cover up voluntarily.
With Muslim hate crimes on the rise in the U.S., women wearing the hijab have been the most vulnerable demographic. Their dress is an advertisement of their faith, attracting anti-Muslim vitriol.
“We want others to understand who we are and what we stand for,” Amina Sanchez, president of the Muslim Student Association at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, told StarTribune. “We’re a peaceful people and we would like to be able to walk down the street and not be afraid.”
Adam admitted to CNN that her Instagram account has received angry comments, but she will not be apologizing for Hijarbie.
“We want to cover up and express our religion,” Adam said. “But a lot of Muslims don’t cover their hair and it doesn’t make them any less of a Muslim.”