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The following article contains a recount of a personal experience with domestic violence and sexual assault and may contain triggering descriptions. My first year at Tufts was anything but easy. Three years ago, during Freshman Orientation, we were required to

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I struggled while reading Salaam, Love because often times a protagonist would do something that I found absolutely forbidden in my morals. But after reading many stories, my mind unlocked itself and finally opened up. I became accepting, and I became humbled and honored to be reading my fellow human beings’ – my fellow Muslims’ – real stories and what they struggled with. I understood that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Whether or not we interpret our decisions as mistakes is irrelevant, but the truth is, none of us is perfect.

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Growing up, I had always felt that the only important part of my identity that other people should care about – whether those others were Muslim or not – was the Muslim part. Whenever I would fill out a questionnaire or play a “get to know you” game where we talked about hobbies or interests, I would usually have to restrain myself from saying “I just like being Muslim and learning about being Muslim and about Islam.” Instead, I’d just gave a short list of bland activities that occupied my time: “I like to read (Harry Potter) and hang out with my friends and watch TV.”

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This particular day, to me, is one of those memories that I find difficult to solidly grasp. The small details slip through my fingers like water. Everything seems blurry and in my mind even now, everything is shifted to a diagonal angle. All I remember is that my mother was not in good shape, and she was crying. I cannot remember even now how it felt to see my own mother so incredibly heartbroken. Considering I had barely lived half a decade, I imagine that I did not fully understand the situation at the time.

I didn’t find out until later that my mother’s youngest brother had died in Afghanistan over a year before hand.

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To make feel people comfortable around me, I did what I could to ensure I was just like them. While I could not hide my Indian ethnicity or my religion, I quickly picked up their interests like a chameleon changes colors. I was always worried that they would see through me though and realize that it was all just a façade. I felt like I was continuously playing a game of, “What does not belong?”

Because I was afraid of getting hurt, I built such high walls around my heart to the point where they were no longer walls; I had built a fortress. At the slightest inkling that someone was going to hurt me, I quickly would recede back into my citadel and cower away in the corner.

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Join Coming of Faith and Yusrah Dawah in this creativity-based collaboration with the goal to help Muslim American women reveal their stories and emotions through writing.

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I questioned myself – if Allah created all of us, how can I be punished for loving his creation? Aarav wasn’t any more or any less of a human than I was. I decided that maybe I could convince Aarav to be Muslim. Maybe I could really show him how logical Islam is. In my head, we both had the same moral code and political perspectives, how difficult would it be to sway him towards Islam? So many people convert when they meet someone of a different faith.

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Claustrophobia. Freedom. Loss. Strength. Loneliness. Family. Fearlessness.
“Have you got married yet?”
“That is a personal question. I choose not to answer it.”
“You have not changed. You’re still the same feminist.”
“Call it feminism or respect for one’s privacy. I choose to call it latter.”

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I have to admit, my opinion of arranged marriages…or rather, arranged courting or matchmaking…has always been pretty negative. To me, it was a transaction that could only be compared to something like buying a car. Mr. Eligible Bachelor asks people he knows if they have a car for sale or know where he could possibly find one. Someone says, “Oh yes! I have a fantastic car for sale!” Mr. E Bachelor comes over and checks out the car. If he likes it, he takes it. If he doesn’t, he tells the owner he is terribly sorry, but he doesn’t like it. Wasn’t good enough. Of course, the car should just be thankful that a buyer even came along – too many cars for sale, not enough buyers. The car goes along, willingly.

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When the violence began in Gaza this past Ramadan, I immediately began donning the keffiyeh again. I’m standing up to what I believe is an injustice, and I will not censor myself despite the criticism Palestinian supporters receive, the suggestive questions about opinions on Hamas, or the accusations people make about supporters being anti-Semitic.

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