I was born into a  white, middle-class family with access to a higher education, and I have always been considered valuable and “worth it.” As an avid observer, I quickly came to realize there were other girls out there who didn’t seem to have quite the freedom I thought I had. My mother used to always say that we should respect other cultures. “There are seven thousand million people in the world. Do you think all of them are going to see it as we see it?” But still, it made me mad to see women walking around with their bodies completely covered on 100º weather. It made me more than mad. It made me furious.

It wasn’t long until I started to read, to ask questions, to investigate about other ways of seeing the world and other possibilities. I quickly came to find out the general idea that comes to our mind when we think about “Muslims” or “Arab countries” is absolutely wrong, filled with prejudice and stupid ideas we have been fed by our capitalists, occidental countries. Furthermore, we have been taught that those other ways of seeing the world are not okay and that we should strive to help “free” those other countries, those other women.

When we think about Muslim women, we think about the bunch of lies we have been fed, filled with prejudice and occidentalist views of the world.

Well, for those fellow white friends who are reading me and still think Muslim women need their help: you are wrong. When you think about “Muslims” and the only idea that comes to your mind is women wearing burkas that can’t even show their eyes, not being allowed to vote or drive or being forced to marry their rapists, let me tell you, that’s NOT the general thing that’s going on. Flash news: tons of Muslims actually live among us on our countries (which are theirs as well), they’re our neighbors, sometimes our teachers and yes, maybe you don’t even know. There are a lot of ways to be a Muslim and, hear me out: they’re not better or worse than being a Catholic, an Atheist or a Buddhist. End of story.

We are not here to tell our Muslim sisters how or when should they free themselves. There’s no difference on us, living in the US or in Europe and feeling forced to dress a certain way when we go out and Muslim women feeling like they should cover their hair. Honestly, we are seeing this with an occidentalist, paternalist view. They don’t need us to be pitching on on what Muslim women should or shouldn’t be doing. We don’t know their reality. We should listen to them, respect them, let them know we are here for them, not to teach them how to do things, but to do it with them, to let them rule.

I have come to find out, with the recent jihadist wave of violence (which, again, IS NOT WHAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS ARE ABOUT), that very many men who are sexist and misogynistic on their usual day to day life become very passionate about women when it comes to criticizing Islam. They suddenly have a burning desire to speak about the horrific situation women are leaving under the rules of Islam, but they are never going to agree when you say that women are oppressed right here, next to them. This is called Islamophobia, and how these men react is just a way to try to cover their hate by dressing it up as actual concern for Muslim women.

Open your eyes and realize that it is not our duty to free other women but to help them and hold their hand in their own journey.

Dear Muslim women, we are sorry.