Spotlight: Nour Gamal, global nomad, translator and Love, InshAllah contributor!

An excerpt from Nour’s story, “So I Married a Farangi”:

“My parents are observant Muslims who would take us to the mosque in central Jersey every Sunday for religion and Arabic classes. Starting when I was very young, they drilled into me that dating is haram and that interactions with the opposite sex are to be undertaken with that in mind. But they were pretty accepting of my having boys as good friends. I came to understand that my interactions with boys (and, later, young men) would not be criticized as long as they took place within the context of friendship. And boys didn’t really find me attractive as more than a friend until I was sixteen, anyway. Though I had many crushes, I only ever behaved towards them in a manner that could be explained away as something one friend would do for another friend. If I gave a crush a Valentine’s card, he would get the same one that all my other friends got. If I gave him a mix tape–that early 1990s symbol of devotion—I would be sure to qualify the gift by claiming that I’d made the tape for myself and just thought he might like to check out the songs. If one of my girlfriends happened to ask me if I thought my secret crush (they were always secret, as I was never outwardly boycrazy) was cute, I’d respond nonchalantly, “Oh, him? Um, I guess he’s alright. We’re just such good friends that I can’t think of him that way.”

To read the rest of Nour’s story, order Love, InshAllah today!

Tell us about yourself 

I’ve grown up all over and love to travel as a result. I get restless if I stay too long in any one place. I was born in Egypt and raised in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Arabian Gulf states. I have a lifelong, inexplicable obsession with all things Irish, though I somehow ended up marrying an Englishman. My interests run the gamut from human rights and socioeconomic development, to art and film, to American pop culture, with a particular focus on former child stars. (Hilary Duff, Amanda Bynes call me!) I’ve never been published before (and after that last admission I’ll likely never be published again), and most of my writing that has seen the light of day has been academic.

Why were you drawn to this project?

It was completely by accident. I saw the call on Twitter or on one of the many blogs I read and decided to share it with my more writerly friends. Then I thought about it a bit and thought, *I* could submit something to this anthology. I know that there are plenty of other Muslim women out there who never thought they would marry outside of the “community”, but I rarely see it written about. (As evidenced by this anthology I clearly was not looking hard enough.) I was also drawn to the idea of becoming a part of this diverse Muslim-American community of women.

What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?

I am a fairly private person. If I’m going to share something personal I will only feel comfortable doing it in a humorous way. So it was difficult to write this very personal story, describing what was actually a pretty difficult situation (at the time) while also trying to be funny about it. Actually, really the most challenging thing was trying to be funny. I think maybe I’m the only one who gets my sense of humor.

If you’re writing under a pen name, why?

I come from a family that doesn’t believe in writing things down, certainly not something to be shared with the general public. Also, as I said above, I’m fairly private. I guess I only felt comfortable sharing my story honestly if I could guarantee some sort of distance from it. As far as I know, no one in my family but my husband is aware of this anthology.

If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?

Though getting what you want—be it in love or other aspects of life—may seem impossibly difficult, at the end of the day Allah’s got your back. Also—and I think this applies more to younger women—your parents are way cooler than you give them credit for.