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Debut of First-Ever Hijab-Wearing Barbie Draws Applause and Backlash

Ibtihaj Muhammad AP

Mattel has just launched a new hijab-wearing Barbie doll inspired by Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

The company's move to include a doll in Islamic dress has caused quite a controversy online, with people for it and against it speaking out.

Chelsea Clinton tweeted, "LOVE this. Barbie made their first hijab-wearing "Shero" doll in honor of American fencing star Ibtihaj Muhammad."

"I love this...Its high time," Melissa Strong posted.

On the other side, one woman opposed to the doll threatened to boycott Mattel saying, "As a Christian, I find your decision to make a Hijab wearing Barbie offensive and in poor taste."  I am asking that you DENOUNCE this and provide a public apology.

Mattel released the new doll to honor Muhammad for breaking barriers for Muslim women, who are often oppressed.

For example, for decades Saudi Arabia forbade women from driving a car and only recently announced it will abolish the law.

According to a CNN article, women there are also not allowed to marry, divorce, travel, or get a job without permission from their male guardians. 

Muhammad was the first-ever U.S. Olympic athlete to compete wearing a head scarf at the 2016 Rio Olympic games, where she won a bronze medal.  The new Barbie is part of Mattel's "Shero Program," which highlights women who push through and challenge boundaries in their field.

"Barbie is celebrating Ibtihaj not only for her accolades as an Olympian, but for embracing what makes her stand out," Barbie's vice-president of marketing, Sejal Shah Miller, said in a statement. "Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented. By honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything."

However, one Middle Eastern man said the message behind the new doll has nothing to do with Muhammad's accomplishments.

"Barbie in the eyes of many Americans is the (idealistic) American girl. By putting a veil or a hijab over her head, Muslims are sending a bold statement that the ideal American girl should be veiled," Soloman Daniel told CBN News.

Muhammad took to social media to express her gratitude for the honor of having a doll made in her likeness.

"The Barbie Shero Program recognizes women who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls and I am so excited to join this incredible group of women," Muhammad wrote on Instagram. "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."

But Daniel couldn't disagree more.

"They wanted to plant in the hearts and minds of kids that it is OK and normal for girls to convert to Islam, Barbie did," he commented.

"They are also using this Islamic Barbie as a visual educational tool to answer the questions about the Islamic doctrine, including why a girl should be veiled and how Islam brings (honor) and (virtue) to women. This is a new strategy to promote the man made peaceful version of Islam," he said.

Meanwhile, Matell also includes dolls in various shapes, sizes and colors.

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