Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am Muslim by culture and religion. Yes, I grew up in a so-called “masculine” environment but that’s because I am an engineer in France. No, I’m not ashamed of my identity nor of my personal history. Quite the contrary. Yet somehow I live rent free in your head. You seemed to be deeply bothered by my sheer existence and constantly preoccupied with making sure my voice is never considered legitimate.

I dare to raise my own voice, like anyone else would. Why should it be only your prerogative? And, of course, I raise my pitch when under the pretext of “freedom from oppression”, you protest against women who wear headscarves. Sorry but I’m not sorry that I will never understand your definition of “freedom”. Sorry again that I believe gender equality isn’t about you asking me for justifications or shaming me for what I wear. Sorry, if I believe freedom from oppression is about not being demonized for my intimate life choices that do no harm to you.

I regret to inform you that I will not be able to reduce the idea of freedom to a piece of fabric. I feel freer when I refuse to be the infantile woman who needs to be emancipated by you. Sorry to disappoint you but I cannot be the delinquent misfit you want me to be either. You want me to fit easily into your boxed stereotypes but excuse me for not giving your hate a free chit. Go and tell someone else that your attempt to control me is about liberating me.

How long will you take to learn to accept us, Muslim women, as legitimate beings? You are so quick to brand us as selfish or ignorant. Do you even have a clue as to what we know and what we think of you? Try passing the microphone to us sometime so we can tell you a thing or two- we, the women who you and everybody else seems to be talking about all the time. Who told you that you can speak of us as if we don’t have minds of our own? Will you be able to bear the truth if you have to listen to us for a change?

Thank you for being sceptical regarding my ability to stay well-informed regarding subjects that concern myself.  Let me break it to you though, that on that subject at least, you simply cannot claim you are more qualified than I am. And sorry again but I am not taking the vow of chastity to show my solidarity with all the women who are forcefully wedded. I am not apologizing either for the “selfish” Muslim women you say are free to choose “yet” proudly wear their headscarves when other women in the world are being forced to. Would you give up eating because there are children starving in the Global South? Would you go on strike to protest my unemployment? Why then should I deprive myself of my freedom because there are other oppressed women in the world? So you can box me into your idea of how a Muslim woman should be?

Yes, you have the right to believe Islam is “restrictive” and islamophobia is just a “false problem”. Keep saying Islamophobia is an idea manufactured by “intellectual frauds''. Keep boycotting halal butcheries because they don’t sell pork. Tell me, though, how is it that you let your reservations fall apart when it comes to couscous, mint tea, chorba or for that matter, petrodollars? But just remember that you think only for yourself and should speak only for yourself too. In no way are you allowed to think aggressively for others, especially when you have made no effort to be better informed about them with humility.

You are not the one who has to permanently justify your faith, even though it’s something quite personal. And it’s not you either who gets physically bullied for wearing whatever it is you like to wear. You are the one who likes to bully women for wearing headscarves. You are the one who is getting tiresome with all the haranguing.

Do give up teaching us what’s good for us or not. The colonial era is over. Those who want people to be free, live in the present. Unlike you.

Be well ...(try).

Not yours, truly,
A woman who feels very sorry for you.

This piece has been translated into English from the French original.
The photo is by Arif ID and has been cropped to fit.