Opinion: American Girl’s Eid al-Fitr doll outfit opens up opportunities for accurate Muslim representation

By Samaher AbuRabah, Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones

When I was growing up, many girls would bring in dolls for show-and-tell. The dolls would all mirror their features—straight blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Their dolls represented the “average” American girl.

In the early 2000s, I do not remember there being a diverse range of American Girl dolls. Most of them had similar facial features and clothes. There were outfits that represented holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah—but never Eid. American Girl dolls never resonated with or represented me. Because of that, I never even went into the American Girl store.

But finally, in 2021, American Girl has brought the representation I always wanted as a child.

Mattel’s newly released Eid al-Fitr outfit for American Girl includes a long-sleeved turquoise abaya, leggings to go underneath, a pink hijab and two gold beaded bracelets. The set also includes a gold envelope with pretend money and a book that highlights five different cultural celebrations.

Like me, many Muslim children rarely find toys that represent them accurately. American Girl’s Eid al-Fitr is one of the first I’ve seen that doesn’t involve stereotypical aspects of what people perceive to be Muslim.

These stereotypical aspects are usually a mix of religion, culture and ethnicity.

For example, if we take the movie “Aladdin”—it takes place in a country that is supposed to be representative of the Middle East, yet it incorporates a mix of Southeast Asia and Islam. The movie mixes all these different factors that don’t fit into the same category.

This ideology transfers into the small variety of toys meant to represent Muslims.

After spending my whole life seeing the horribly inaccurate depiction of Muslims through toys, I can say that Mattel’s Eid al-Fitr outfit is a hopeful step in the right direction.

This is one of the first American toys that incorporated elements of Islam in their products, and being one of the first is definitely a big step toward opening up more opportunities for Muslim representation in children’s products.

The only downside of Mattel releasing this outfit is the length of time it took for them to actually do so.

In a press release from the Council on American Islamic Relations, Yasmeen Blackburn, an associate for the council, said she reached out to the company with the idea for Muslim representation in 2008, and the company responded saying they had no intent to include a design like this in their products. In 2020, Blackburn reached out again to push for representation, and this time the company worked with her to create an outfit that fit the standards Blackburn was looking for.

The question is, why would it take them this long to create the inclusion Muslim girls have been looking for? When Blackburn first came to them with the idea in 2008, how was Mattel able to say they had no intention of creating Muslim products?

There are multiple reasons Mattel could have for finally adding the Muslim representation. Maybe they felt like they were obligated, now that the company’s products have become more diverse—especially since Mattel created a line of outfits exhibiting designs representing various cultures.

Maybe Mattel saw how important it was to be able to have dolls that represent everyone in America. When Blackburn reached out to the company again, they had a positive response and added the outfit to keep with their public policies on diversity and inclusion.

Even though it took longer than it should have, Mattel’s Eid al-Fitr outfit does give an accurate representation of what Muslim clothing is, and its description of the holiday is informational and correct.

I hope to be able to give more gifts like this American Girl during future Eid celebrations.