Barbie has announced it will release its first-ever hijab-wearing character in 2018, a doll based on the Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Mattel (MAT), the creators of Barbie, announced Monday at Glamour's Women of the Year summit that the latest doll in its "Shero" collection will be modeled after the athlete, who made headlines in 2016 when she became the first American to compete in the games while wearing the Islamic scarf. "Shero" combines the words "she" and "hero," referring to positive female role models.
Muhammad applauded the news on Twitter: "Thank you @Mattel for announcing me as the newest member of the @Barbie #Shero family! I'm proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true."
According to the New Yorker, when Mattel proposed a Barbie based on Muhammad, she "had a few initial requests," including that she wear dark eyeliner and the hijab.
"It's something I wear like I wear a shirt or I wear pants," Muhammad said, adding that she hoped children would "take it off and try it on their other Barbies."
The Shero line, which launched in 2015, includes dolls based on prominent women such as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, model Ashley Graham, ballerina Misty Copeland, director Ava DuVernay and actress Zendaya, and makes up about five per cent of Barbie sales. "
"Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything," Sejal Shah Miller, Barbie's vice president of global marketing, said in a statement.
Lisa McKnight, the senior vice-president in charge of Barbie strategy at Mattel, told the New Yorker that for future dolls, she is looking for "The trifecta-someone like Ibtihaj Muhammad, who has broken boundaries and inspires girls, and played with Barbies as a girl herself."
While many on social media applauded the news, not everyone was pleased about the latest doll.
"So instead of promoting women's rights and freedom, @Mattel is promoting Hijab on Barbie dolls," wrote one Twitter user. "This is indoctrination of young minds that Hijab is OK and not oppressive while it really isn't a free choice for Muslim women."
Ann Coulter, a conservative US commentator, tweeted: "ISIS Ken sold separately."
"Mattel releases its new #HijabBarbie just in time for the holidays. Nothing spreads Christmas cheer like religious oppression against women," wrote another.
The doll will go on sale in 2018.