The point is that I choose. I choose to whom I reveal my hair, my body. I do not exist to please others, so it follows that I do not craft my outward appearance for the pleasure of others. You might still leer at me. Undress me with your eyes. Fixate on the thought of what is underneath. But the agency remains with me since you will never know. My body is not for public display.

I will not be constrained, oppressed, or limited by what the society I live in has dictated should be a woman’s appearance or personality. I will not show “just the right amount” of skin to strike a balance between being taken seriously at work or school and still being “just the right amount” of sexy. My sexy surprises include the facts that I am far more interested in working and learning and yes, I speak fluent English.

I will not participate in slut-shaming when other women express their confidence of, control over, or insecurity about their own bodies by wearing as much or as little as they choose. Rape happens regardless of whether a woman is wearing a burqa or a bikini and I will never find the victim to be at fault for the crime. In the hope of maintaining control over my own body and soul, I will fight for the rights of others to do so: women and men and those who do not subscribe to exclusive gender binary constructions.

I will cover what I choose when I choose and I will explain my choices to no one. I will contradict myself until I am comfortable, trying hard to ignore loud whispers and concerned stares. I will seek meaning from what I do and when justifying my actions to myself and my creator, I will appeal to the heart and the mind — never anonymous misogynist orders, subtle suggestions or helpful hints from the fantastical Guidebook to Being Good.

I will wear hijab and I will take my body back, swimming against the overwhelming tide of established patriarchy. Stop telling me what and who I need to look like, be like. I will not let my thoughts be limited to my limited role as a limited woman in Western society or Eastern society. Neither will I be reduced to a hyper-sexualized Orientalized version of who you think I am. I will not be your harem woman; this material veil does not exist only for you to remove.

I will be hyper-aware of my position of relative privilege as a person with access to excellent education and work opportunities, and I will recognize what greater responsibility I have to make a meaningful contribution to this earth. My hijab will serve as a reminder, to you, but primarily to me, of what I can achieve.

My hijab is not a plea. It is not a cry for help or a symbol of a sheltered, simplified life. My hijab does not oppress me, but I have been oppressed. My hijab does not confine me, but I have been confined. My hijab does not dictate for me what I can and cannot do, but others have tried to dictate for me what I can and cannot do. My hijab does not limit my potential to contribute to society, but your persistent ignorance makes it more difficult and

I become exhausted, frustrated, and a little sad. My hijab does not restrict me to closed spaces. The closed spaces in your head bleed distrust and misunderstanding and you should probably stop because I am not alone in feeling like I’m always fighting.

My hijab is not a piece of cloth on my head.

My hijab is my manifesto.