Arab parents, and indeed people who have a conservative mindset, have quite a tough time when it comes to selecting playthings for their daughters. Little girls all over the world love to play with dolls. However, the choices available are severely limited. There are quite a few parents in the Arab world who disapprove strongly of the ubiquitous Barbie doll (and her friend Ken) for a variety of reasons.
It is not just Barbie’s impossibly exaggerated body shape and revealing clothes that people have a problem with. It is also because of the values, or perceived lack of them, that these figures portray.
Certain toy manufacturers have realized that there is huge demand for playthings for little girls in the Arab world because Barbie and her like will never be accepted. There is a very large tradition of making play figures for little children to play with but parents want to be able to go to a departmental store and select something that looks modern and is packaged well.
As a result, these manufacturers have come up with a variety of dolls that Arab girls can play with and also use as their role models. Not only do these little figures have distinctly Arab features with dark hair and brown eyes but they also dress modestly.
Jamila is one of the most popular Arab dolls available in the market today. Originally launched as a smart young woman, she is now sold as a happily married woman who looks after her family consisting of her husband Jamal and two children, Asad and Almira, a boy and a girl respectively.
She wears the traditional black Abaya that many Arab Muslim women wear as a sign of modesty but she also wears other types of apparel as well (all of which will meet the approval of Muslim parents who want their daughters to remain modest).
Another popular plaything for girls in the Islamic world is Fulla. Her manufacturers customize her appearance to suit different Islamic markets and she comes in a variety of looks ranging from the highly conservative Abaya to the relatively modern looking dress and skirt. Even if she is wearing western clothes, she never shows off her knees or wears an outfit that is completely sleeveless.
Little Muslim girls from all over the world have a great time playing with these little dolls because they look exactly like the women in their immediate surroundings such as their mothers and aunts. Parents too prefer buying these toys because they reflect the values that they wish their daughters to have. In fact, many Middle Eastern countries ban the sale of western dolls because they do not conform to the ideals of Islam.
Toys like Fulla and Jamila are widely accepted by parents because they serve as excellent role models to girls from the Muslim world. With their realistic looking bodies (with smaller breasts and darker skin) and conservative looking clothes, they are the perfect toy to buy for little girls who need good role models in a confusing modern world.