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MUSLIM WORLD: Barbie's 50th anniversary Islamic makeover


From Barbie Beach to Pilot Barbie to Hard Rock Barbie, the glamorous and iconic doll has undergone many makeovers since her creation 50 years ago, but none of her previous outfits has probably stirred as much buzz as her latest Islamic look.

It's Barbie in a burka, as it's been dubbed by the yellow press.

Wearing the traditional Islamic dress with a mesh eyehole, she went under the hammer along with 500 other Barbie dolls dressed in unique outfits at an auction in Florence, Italy, at the renowned auction house Sotheby’s to raise funds for Save the Children. 

The auction, held in late November, was part of the celebrations put on for Barbie this year as she celebrated her 50th anniversary.

In her new look, Barbie also appeared in a line of stylish turquoise, lime-green, orange-colored burkas and regular head-covering Muslim veil, known as hijab.

The set of multicultural Barbies, including the burka-clad one, was dressed by the Italian designer Eliana Lorena in a project backed by Barbie's owner, Mattel.


Opinion has been divided on Burka Barbie. 

Fan Angela Ellis, who has a collection of more than 250 Barbie dolls, thought it was a good idea to introduce a veiled Barbie. That way, children living in conservative Islamic countries would have a doll they could identify with.

“Bring it on, Burka Barbie," Britain’s the Sun newspaper quoted her as saying. "This is really important for girls, wherever they are from, they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.” 

But not everyone shared such excitement over Barbie’s new conservative Islamic look.

Critics such as Barbara Kay in Canada slammed Barbie’s Muslim dress as a “symbol of oppression” and ripped Ellis’ commentary in an article recently published in Canada’s the National Post newspaper.

“I have seen some pretty tawdry advertising campaigns in my time, but I must say this one takes the cake for insensitivity. What's next in dolls that are 'important for girls' to play with? ‘Illiterate Barbie’? ‘Forced-Marriage Barbie'?" she wrote.

Instead, Kay branded Burka Barbie a “mockery of disempowered women” who, she said, have been “stripped of human dignity."

 She felt the doll had no place in Mattel’s line of “diversity” Barbies. 

“There can be no parallel between these travesties of multiculturalism and other 'diversity' Barbies -- brown Barbies, native-dress Barbies, pilot Barbies -- avatars that reflect the natural appearance and truly traditional garb and career choices of free women,” she wrote.

The Barbie also has managed to stir the pot in the blogosphere.

_41208244_fulla_boxed_afp203Responding to a post on the blog Kabobfest, which argues that "it's kinda somewhat cool" of Mattel to put out a veiled Barbie, one commentator sarcastically suggested the Barbie makers introduce a line of “neocon pro-freedom Barbies" to balance out Burka Barbie.

Burka Barbie is not the first Islamic-styled doll for girls.

Back in 2003, the United Arab Emirates-based company Newboy launched the Muslim doll Fulla, resulting in some fierce competition for Barbie.

Unlike the skimpy and revealing outfits of blond and blue-eyed Barbie, dark-eyed Fulla wears more modest clothes and hairdos, to the delight of the authorities in conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran who previously targeted the original Barbie in crackdowns.

In 2003, Saudi Arabia called Barbie a “symbol of decadence to the perverted West” and banned the doll. Last year, Barbie came under fire in Iran when Iranian prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi said the dolls were “destructive culturally and a social danger.”

Barbie's veiled rival has become a smash hit in the Middle East, with more than 1.5 million dolls sold in the first two years of its making.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photos, from top: Barbie received an Islamic makeover for her 50th anniversary. Italy's Eliana Lorena designed the 500 Barbie dolls, including Burka Barbie, that recently were auctioned in Italy. Credit: Caters.  Barbie's veiled rival Fulla has become a bestseller in the Arab world. Credit: AFP

Comments () | Archives (51)

Barbie looks just like Michelle Trachtenberg.

What's the point of even having a Barbie under there? May aswell stuff it with newspaper.

People need to keep there opinions to themselves. Children need to have a doll that represents them, a doll they can relate to, be that a western version or eastern version. What is important is that children can enjoy being young. They do not have politics. You are only young once. Everyone just grow up and mind your own business.

i am a muslim in an arab country and CHOSE to wear hijab , i am a DOCTOR also who CHOSE the man to marry withOUT any pressure from any one . my hijab is a sign of respect to female body i am not a statue which you would watch and say if it s arm is thinner and legs are fatter .

I wonder if there's a bomb vest under that Burka.

What's next female circumcision Barbie?

I am disapointed that an LA Times reporter did not do enough research before writing this article to realise that the burqa is not the "traditional Islamic dress". That phrase is essentially meaningless, as Islam is multi-culturally inclusive and, thus, does not have any one, traditional dress. Furthermore, the burqa has no religious roots and is actually an Afghan, cultural dress.

Next time, Alexandra, do your research.

Hi sexy....I'm winking at you!

Is there actually a doll under the garb...

how educated can a woman be who lets religious zealots dictate that she stay hidden so sex crazed muslim men wont be forced to raper her?

More P/C B/S

Saba Dadabhoy said:

"I cant believe how ignorant people can be. Islam encourages modesty and thats what the hijab symbolizes. There are a number of girls across the world who observe the hijab, are independent, and educated."

Nice try... I'll give you a 5 out of 5 for this one; all style points, of course, since your post is completely devoid of fact.

The Hajib is a tool of repression and oppression of women. Radical Islamists admit this, so why can't you?

What will you be defending next? Female Genital Mutilation? Because it promotes good hygiene?


I can see both sides of this debate but in the end what if Burqa Barbie wins the hearts and minds of the very children fanatical Islamist prey on? Let Burqa Barbie try to do what wars, politicians, Jihads and peace treaties haven't. Replace MOAB's with Barbies. Now, what about Koran Is Peace Ken???

And what does Barbie wear under the burka? See:

I'm naked under my burka

What's next?
A doll with dynamite strapped to her body?

I wonder if she comes complete with ritual genital mutilation? Will there be an Honor Killing(tm) accessory pack to take care of Skipper?

I cant believe how ignorant people can be. Islam encourages modesty and thats what the hijab symbolizes. There are a number of girls across the world who observe the hijab, are independent, and educated.

Just think, if we could all wear Burka's, we'd never have to brush or style our hair, wash our face, put on a little makeup, iron our clothes, or figure out what to wear. Teeth brushing could be reduced because all that material/mesh could screen our breath, and we could definitely get away with having oily hair, which would be a good conditioner. For those who have to continuously die their gray, or dark roots, well, no more. We wouldn't need that face cream anymore (why bother when no one sees your face anyway). And if the clothes we wore under our Burka's were stained, or a little soiled, who cares? We'd just get up in the morning, throw on our rags and Burka's, and boogey.

There are days when eliminating some of these chores would be welcomed. Let's face it, working Western women have enough to do now days without all the extra "keeping up appearances" requirements. The downside of course would be those who take it to the extreme might end up less clean, less healthy (rotten teeth), and less self-esteemed. Too bad we can't find a happy medium.

The Burka was created by the terrorist group known as the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 20th century. From Egypt, this degrading POLITICAL movement grabbed hold in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and throughout the Muslim world. The Koran never once states a woman should be veiled. In fact, the only reference to a veil is for the man, but since men consider their women property they just threw it on them. And the man veil described in the Koran is not a full body bee keeper outfit. I'm disgusted a company that depends on young Western women for profits would insult them and the freedoms of women earned throughout the years. This should not be supported by any Westerners. You are not being supportive of other religions or cultures, instead you are demoralizing and worsening the situation.

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