It’s time to give the hijab a warm and long overdue welcome at playtime and beyond.
A new initiative called Hello Hijab wants to encourage wider acceptance of hijabs, creating tiny headscarves for children to put on their Barbies and similar dolls. The effort aims to make playtime more inclusive, while also getting children used to seeing headscarves in order to help fight stigma.
The $6 handmade hijabs will be available for U.S. order starting April 1, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to nonprofits serving multicultural communities.
Hello Hijab is the first initiative from For Good, a small, Pittsburgh-based nonprofit supporting social good projects in the area. The nonprofit’s goal is to uplift marginalized people, like the Muslim community, around the U.S.
“During these tense and very charged times, this concept might sound naive and maybe it is,” For Good creators Gisele Fetterman and Kristen Michaels wrote on the nonprofit’s site. “But we believe that there has never been a better time to reach out and do something positive for someone else.”
Fetterman came up with the idea after making a conscious effort to diversify the types of dolls her 5-year-old daughter, Grace, played with. Looking at her daughter’s collection of dolls, she realized Grace didn’t have any who looked like the mothers and grandmothers of so many of her Muslim friends and that no such dolls were easily accessible on the market.
“My daughter usually plays with my hijabs at home, but I need this for her future.”
“I think little girls and little boys should have access to these [doll hijabs] to familiarize themselves with people who look different than they do, and who believe in different things,” Fetterman said.
She brought the idea to her friend, Safaa Bokhari, who decided to team up with For Good to create Hello Hijab. Bokhari, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, helped For Good conceptualize the project responsibly with her firsthand experience of Muslim culture.
“When I heard the idea, I was hooked,” Bokhari said. “My daughter usually plays with my hijabs at home, but I need this for her future.”
Hijabis have long been “othered” in the United States for wearing headscarves. But recent actions by the Trump administration targeting Muslim populations (like the travel ban) and the president’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has made the current social climate especially unwelcoming to Muslims.
Research suggests that anti-Muslim hate crimes have tripled over the past year with the rise of Trump, which makes wearing a visible symbol of religion like the hijab potentially dangerous.
Hello Hijab hopes to curb that discrimination by reaching children, who the creators believe have less bias and more openness toward the Muslim community. While recent studies suggest children as young as 6 show anti-Muslim bias, it could be curbed with more exposure to Muslim culture.
To help create more understanding, the doll hijabs come with a card written for children, explaining what a hijab is and why it’s important.
Some headscarves made by Hello Hijab are made from new materials, but many of them are created from repurposed headscarves donated by Muslim women who want their hijabs to have new life and meaning.
“We all want a better future for our daughters.”
“My house has been flooded with hijabs to be repurposed,” Bokhari said. “[These women] feel the same way as I do feared, but filled with hope. We all want a better future for our daughters.”
For Good, which was founded through a small community grant, is funding the initial production of the tiny hijabs.
The proceeds will benefit four specific organizations: the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, Community Blueprint, the ACLU of Pittsburgh, and the Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Pittsburgh, which is a leading refugee resettlement organization in Pittsburgh.
Fetterman and Bokhari said their greatest hope for Hello Hijab is to reach a “kinder, gentler generation” children who can spread more acceptance of hijabis and Muslim culture.
“They will realize that when Barbie wears a hijab, she doesn’t become a different creature,” Bokhari said. “She’s the same Barbie.”