To Cover or Not to Cover That is…None of Your Business

An Open Letter to Those Who Want to Liberate Me From Wearing My Hijab Originally published at www.mcsweeneys.net.

Dear Neofeminist, Lipstick Feminist (and every feminist in between), Politician, Activist, College Professor, Pseudo-Intellectual, and The Lady Behind Me at Trader Joe’s,

You are like a decontextualized brazen zombie walking into an operating room waving and wailing at surgeons as they begin to perform a life-saving operation, all the time thinking you are saving a human life from a knife because you don’t understand what surgery, or hospitals, or doctors are. Of course, in your mind you are an unwavering champion for humanity, but to everyone else, you’re insane.

That’s how I feel about you every time you want to “liberate” me from an article of clothing I choose to wear: Hijab (a.k.a. head covering, symbol of faith, target practice for people like Jerry Falwell Jr., or insert desired synonym).

It used to be that women were harassed for showing too much, and in some places that is still the case, but in the world I live in, you harass me for showing too little.

In the end, the message you send is clear: my only value is my body.

While the female body is valuable, how much of my body I choose to show you does not determine my value.

I don’t need your life jacket. I am not drowning in dogmatism or ideological idiocy. Nor am I prisoner to a patriarchal rampart. I am not brainwashed, backward, or bound. You don’t need to rescue me so stop trying to save me.

I don’t need saving. What I need is respect.

But let’s get real here. For the truly pernicious of you (you know who you are), I’m only a backdrop for your ideological warfare that you so cleverly coined as the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ [enter theme music, I’m thinking Star Wars].

You don’t actually care if I cover my whole body or not, so long as I cover it with something other than Islam.

Congratulations! You successfully scare me.

I would love nothing more than to say I don’t fear your words, they mean nothing to me, but the truth is, the words you spew scare me to my core. They ignite a hatred in your hypnotized audience that makes me fear walking down a busy street in broad daylight in a place as proudly progressive as San Francisco — yes that much.

You are the reason why when I drive cross country through the heart of this land of the free-ish, I dastardly disguise myself with a hat because I have to make a choice between freedom and safety, and with my three young girls in the back, I choose safety.

You are the reason why when my daughter feels beautiful, comfortable, and confident wearing Hijab, walking the streets oblivious to the realities you have created, instead of celebrating her choice, my heart wrenches in fear for her innocence and safety because you have turned a child into a walking anathema.

The sad reality is, on my own, I can’t defend myself or my daughters from the life-threatening hatred. And those of you who would normally come to my aid are too busy trying to liberate me from the very thing that needs saving.

So stop stepping on me to elevate your moral high ground and start stepping up to save the very values you claim to champion.

My body is not your tool, not your propagandist pawn, or your path to salvation.

(not) Yours,
Almost every Muslim woman you’ll ever meet

wage beauty| published in McSweeny’s Internet Tendency; Anchor Magazine| recipient of the 2018 SCBWI Emerging Voices Award

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