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Barbie unveils hijab-wearing doll honoring US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad

American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad has been honored with a hijab-wearing Barbie doll. It marks another move by Western companies to tap into the Muslim market.

The maker of Barbie has unveiled its first hijab-wearing doll, modeled after the American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won bronze in the 2016 Rio games.

"We are so excited to honor @IbtihajMuhammad with a one-of-a-kind #Barbie doll! Ibtihaj continues to inspire women and girls everywhere to break boundaries," the doll maker said on Twitter.

The fencer made history last year as the first American Olympian to wear the hijab.

"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," she posted on Twitter late Monday.

Honoring women

The hijab-wearing Barbie, produced by the company Mattel, is part of the "Shero" brand to recognize women "who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls."

"Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented," Barbie's marketing vice president Sejal Shah Miller said in a statement.

"By honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything."

Other Barbie "Sheroes" have included ballerina Misty Copeland, gymnast Gabby Douglas, "Selma" director Ava DuVernay and actress Kristin Chenoweth.

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The hijab-wearing doll, which will come out in 2018, sports Muhammed in a fencing outfit as well as other modest outfits. 

Muhammed said Monday night at the Glamour Women of the Year gala in New York that there were many times that she didn't feel included or represented as an athlete.

"There was so much about the doll that was important to me. I know as a kid I was bullied for having larger legs, and sport taught me to embrace my body and to love my body and the strength that it could produce," she said.

"I think that having strong legs helped me win a medal at the Olympic Games, so I wanted my legs to be larger, more athletic legs, toned legs. And I am very into eyeliner, so I wanted a strong-winged cat eye. And Mattel listened to everything, everything even down to the fabric of the hijab."

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Muslim market

The announcement comes as other major Western brands seek to tap into the Muslim women's market, long dominated by established brands in the Middle East.

In March, Nike announced a new line called "Pro Hijab," becoming the first major maker of sporting apparel to offer a performance head covering for Muslim women who choose to cover.

There have also been fashion shows showcasing modest clothing, including hijabs.

Major clothing giants including H&M, Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger have also sought to tap into the modest clothing market.

The State of the Global Islamic Economy report 2015/2016, penned by Thomson Reuters, valued Muslim consumer spending across travel and lifestyle sectors at $1.8 trillion (€1.7 trillion) in 2014 - a number which is expected to rise to $2.6 trillion (€2.45 trillion) in the next three years.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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