Mattel just announced a new Muslim Barbie (complete with a hijab) to celebrate American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, and some people are already freaking out.
The company has “gradually incorporated diversity” into its dolls in recent years and is now making history with a Muslim incarnation, according to Newsweek.
Muhammad, 31, is well-known for being the first Muslim American to wear a hijab while competing for Team USA at the Olympics.
The athlete tweeted her thanks to Mattel on Monday for welcoming her into the brand’s “Shero” family, which celebrates female role models. “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.”
Some people have cheered the move as an advancement, saying it gives more representation to Muslims, but not everyone has been so accepting. Others have used the opportunity to spread hate against Muslims, and even call for a boycott of Mattel, claiming the company “endorses oppression of women” and “Jew haters.”
Sharia Mattel endorses the oppression of Women & Jew Haters!
Mattel announced Monday their newest Barbie will wear a Sharia Hijab & be modeled after Anti-Semitic Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. pic.twitter.com/S3s6mTHaN3
— Amy Mek (@AmyMek) November 14, 2017
There are also some more reasonable critiques, which challenge Mattel’s decision not on bigoted grounds but based on the fact that — to them — a hijab symbolizes oppression of women.
So instead of promoting women's rights and freedom, @Mattel is promoting Hijab on Barbie dolls.This is Indoctrination of young minds that Hijab is OK and not oppressive while it really isn't a free choice for Muslim women. pic.twitter.com/XnMK05Q3oL
— Ashish (@Ak_Ashii) November 14, 2017
It’s true that many women are forced to wear a hijab in certain countries, and I would never endorse such a mandate (I would also not endorse banning the hijab as that is the same limitation on human rights), but it’s also true that many women do choose to wear the traditional religious garb. That’s what we have here.
In the case of Muhammad, she is an American who isn’t forced to wear the covering. She embraces it for her own reasons, and that’s the doll that Mattel made. They didn’t create a “terrorist” Barbie, as some have so callously said. They wanted to honor an American Olympian.
In fact, according to Newsweek, Muhammad “worked with the doll’s designers to make sure every detail was correct, including larger legs” and the hijab.
“I think it’s revolutionary for Barbie to take a stand in this moment that we’re in — and I would say, as a country, to have a doll wear a hijab and be the first of its kind,” she said.
So, this is a “Muslim Barbie.” More importantly, though, it’s a Barbie commemorating an accomplished Olympian who happens to make the choice to wear a hijab to honor her religion. We should celebrate her athleticism and right to choose how she practices her faith. While it would be wrong to shut down legitimate criticism of the hijab, some are using this doll as an opportunity to spread anti-Muslim propaganda and they deserve to be called out on it.