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I walked to the jewelry stand inside Saint Laurent Mall with a purposeful stride. For months now, I had been saving up for the perfect engagement ring. Today, I can finally afford it. I smiled at the saleswoman, a pretty blonde chick, and indicated the one I wanted. I admired it, and made sure it was the right finger size. Smiling, I took out my Royal Bank of Canada credit card and paid for it. There goes eleven hundred and seventeen dollars, a little voice inside told me before I could quiet it down.

I’m doing the right thing, I told myself as I took the ring and box, along with the small plastic bag, and walked away. Hesitation and regret will be a person’s fatal undoing once they’ve decided on a course of action. This ring is more than a piece of jewelry. It’s a symbol of my love for her. I can’t wait to show it to my sweetheart. She’s going to hit the roof when I present her with this engagement ring. My name is Aneeqa Singh and I’m a young woman with a story to share with you. What’s the story about? How I asked the woman of my dreams to marry me. Three years ago, my life as I knew it changed completely. Hard to believe that it’s only been three years since I met Nafisa Adewale, the gorgeous gal who took my breath away the first time I laid eyes on her.

We were both freshmen at Carleton University in the City of Ottawa, Ontario, and international students to boot. Nafisa comes from Kano City, in northern Nigeria, and she’s from a fairly liberal Muslim family. I mean, she walked around school with a short skirt and tight shirt, on the very first day, so I assumed her family was liberal. Me? I was born and raised in the City of Kargil, in the Jammu and Kashmir State of the Republic of India. We’re the only majority Muslim state in all of India, and this has caused some tension with the rest of the country.

Many fear that Jammu and Kashmir are about to become another Pakistan, and I for one don’t want to see that happen. I still remember my grandfather, Baba Ali Singh telling me about the terrible wars between the Republic of India and its black sheep, dreaded Pakistan. It all began innocently enough over questions of religion and identity, like most global conflicts in the twentieth and twenty-first century. For now, there is peace. The Republic of India has a bright future as a democratic nation where religious freedom and women’s rights are upheld. We’re on our way to becoming a very modern, wonderful country full of promise. I don’t think Sharia law in Jammu and Kashmir or any other part of India is a good idea. And I say this as a proud Indian Muslim woman.

My parents, Mohammed and Farah Singh sent me to study at Carleton University in the Capital of Canada because they believed in me. My father is a doctor back home, and my mother works as an electrical engineer. Whenever I tell people what my mother does for a living, they always seem surprised. There are lots of highly educated women in India, and a lot of us work in previously male-dominated fields such as engineering, medicine, and politics. It’s the twenty-first century and outside of Saudi Arabia and certain parts of the Arab world, a woman can be anything she wants to be. This is the shape of things to come, and no drastic actions by religiously motivated misogynists will change that.

I came to Carleton University bright-eyed and full of hope for the future. My parents plan was simple. I’d get my business administration degree, and then return to beautiful India to make the big bucks, as they say. I’ve always had a head for business, as evidenced by my high scores in mathematics and accounting back in high school. I could see myself becoming a high-powered businesswoman in the changing world of India. It wouldn’t be easy for me in the State of Jammu and Kashmir because of the traditional ( i.e. sexist and backwards ) mindset of most Muslims down there, but I could do well somewhere like the Punjab State. They’re a fairly progressive bunch down there. Yeah, I had it all planned out. I came to Canada all goal-oriented and ambitious, like most South Asians are bahis firmaları stereotypically thought to be by westerners. In Ottawa, I got more than I bargained for. I met the love of my life.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh, yes, I was telling you about how I proposed to Nafisa Adewale, the young Nigerian woman I ended up falling in love with. Sometimes, I shudder to think about how my life would be like without her. They say that difficult circumstances can either make or break a person. When I came to Ottawa, I think I had tunnel vision. All I saw were my goals, and anyone I met fit in one of two categories, those who can help me and those who can hinder me. I focused on the work I had to do, I didn’t have time for anything else. When I met Nafisa Adewale, the tall and absolutely gorgeous young West African woman with the kind smile, I didn’t know what to do. When our eyes met I felt…something. In later years, I would realize that we shared a connection, as do all women who love women. We can spot each other, though it’s easy to misread the signs if you’re new to the game. Nafisa knew what I was even before I did, and she pursued me doggedly.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of my sudden feelings for her. I found myself feeling intensely attracted to this tall, athletic Black gal with the bum that just won’t quit. Um, why was I noticing her bum? I fought against these sexual feelings of mine, but to no avail. I went to mosque and prayed to Allah to rid me of my forbidden feelings for Nafisa. You have to understand that in Islam, homosexuality and lesbianism are very taboo. I heard about gay men getting killed in India and parts of Pakistan when they got caught and exposed for what they are. My people are not very tolerant, I’m afraid.

I didn’t know what to do about my feelings for Nafisa, and there was absolutely no one I could tell. I know what you’re thinking. I should call the gay/lesbian hotline and pour my heart out over the phone, or walk into the LGBT Center on campus. Not bloody likely! Why not? I’m a fucking Muslim! If word got out that I had same-sex desires, I’d be a dead woman! Besides, I had few friends on campus, and I knew better than to reveal that to them because they would never accept me for what I feared I might be…becoming. I mean, have you ever heard of a Muslim woman who was openly lesbian? I guarantee you that if gay men and lesbians from the Islamic world started coming out of the closet, Muslims worldwide would stop hating Israel long enough to focus their wrath on us.

As it turns out, Nafisa and I had the same elective, psychology. One day she stunned everyone in class with a project she was working on, LGBT issues in the Muslim world. She stood in front of our entire class, about thirty people, and shared with them a very poignant tale about how she got involved in LGBT activism. It all began when she realized that she was gay. When she said that, my heart skipped a beat. Understand that I had never heard a Muslim person, male or female, admit to being anything other than heterosexual. This was a first. After class, Nafisa stayed to answer the questions so many of our classmates had for her. And I was one of them. Later, when I ran into her inside the university center food court, I asked her if we could talk. Nafisa nodded, and we sat down and talked, over nuggets and fries.

I wanted to know how someone could be both Muslim and queer, and how they balanced the two. Nafisa smiled and told me that nothing worthwhile was ever easy, to which I nodded, then urged her to continue. Gently nodding, she at last shared her story with me. Nafisa told me about her early life in Kano City, Nigeria, as the daughter of the late great Imam named Ishmail Adewale. She was raised to be a good little Muslim, just like me, but deep down she always felt different. Nafisa realized that she was gay the day she befriended a Christian gal named Janine Azonye at her old school, and found herself attracted to her. If only dad could see me now, she chuckled softly. The daughter of a Muslim leader turns out to be a lesbian. kaçak iddaa One of life’s supreme ironies. I shook my head and smiled.

Nafisa and Janine began seeing each other, taking great care to be discrete, for back in northern Nigeria, there was tension between the Christians and the Muslims. Also, most Nigerians were quite homophobic and they simply wouldn’t have understood the growing bond between the two young ladies. For years they continued with their relationship, refusing to let religious differences and an intolerant society get in the way of their love. Had they been discovered, they would have been put to death. Nevertheless, they wouldn’t give up on each other. Janine and I Nafisa remained close friends ( and more ) until Nafisa graduated from high school and won an international scholarship to a Canadian university. I left behind the only woman I’ve ever loved, Nafisa said wistfully. A sad look crept into her beautiful face. I found your story quite moving, I told her. Gently I touched her hand, in sympathy, no, in empathy.

Nafisa looked at my hand touching hers, then looked into my eyes. She smiled and asked me what my story was. When she said that, my heart thundered in my chest. There it was, the moment of truth. I could lie to her, and walk away, preserving my most precious secret, or I could come clean. I felt so conflicted, and I was risking so much, but I couldn’t hold it inside of me any longer. I took a deep breath, then told Nafisa my secret. I am attracted to girls, I said meekly, then added quietly that if my family found out, I’d be a dead woman. Nafisa smiled at me and held out her arms. I hesitated, and looked at her. In those bright brown eyes of hers, I saw something. Whatever it was, I liked it, and it made me feel safe. I went into Nafisa’s arms, and once there, something amazing happened. For the first time in my life, I just let go. She held me tightly, and whispered into my ear that she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. It was a promise she would keep.

That’s how it all began between Nafisa and I. As the first openly gay Muslim woman I’ve ever met, Nafisa became my role model and also my close friend and confidante. Finally, I had someone I could talk to about how I felt. Nafisa introduced me to others of our “kind”, for lack of a better word. Other Muslims who were gay, lesbian or bisexual. I met Bilal Qadir, a tall Somali guy from Algonquin College who lived with his Mexican boyfriend Ernesto in an apartment in Nepean. I also met Haweeyo Muhammad, a pretty, hijab-wearing Somali gal who was dating a tomboyish redhead named Deirdre. Wow, I was impressed. It seems that Nafisa knew every gay, bisexual or lesbian Muslim out there. One thing bothered me, though. Why is it that most LGBT Muslims don’t date other Muslims? When I asked Nafisa about that, she shrugged and told me that most of us found it too tough to form relationships with other people of our faith. Too much conflict, that was her reasoning.

I didn’t like the sound of that. I was slowly becoming okay with my new identity as a lesbian and a Muslim, and how much both mattered to me. I still prayed five times a day, and I firmly believed in the Koran and the wise words of the Prophet Mohammed. I simply stopped focusing on those tenets of my faith which clashed with my new identity. All human beings, regardless of race, gender or faith, are creations of Allah, the one and only God. Allah does not make mistakes. If I am a lesbian and a Muslim, it’s no accident and definitely no mistake. Like everything else that happens on this planet, it’s the Will of the Most High. I learned that from Nafisa, my Muslim sister, my protector, and the woman I found myself falling in love with.

I guess I had a crush on Nafisa for a while, but I just didn’t know how to tell her. Also, there was also the possibility that she might reject me. Nafisa is very proud of herself as a Black woman, a Muslim and a citizen of Nigeria. She’s quite involved with the African Student Union at school, and also the LGBT club. Me? I’m a glorified Indian nerd. I’m hardly noticeable. kaçak bahis I’m a five-foot-four and slender, with light bronze skin, long curly black hair and light brown eyes. I used to wear the hijab daily, along with saris, of course, but now I’m a part-time hijabi, I guess. I’ve grown fond of western clothes. I like jeans and T-shirts, and sometimes I wear short skirts. Nafisa told me I looked pretty in knee-length shorts, which I wore during one of our movie “dates”. I blushed so much I turned red like a tomato.

One day, I finally got the guts to tell Nafisa how I felt. It was at the engineering formal, which Nafisa was helping organize. She showed up wearing the proverbial little black dress, showing off her gorgeous figure. The gal had a curvy body to die for, legs that went on forever, large and firm breasts, and a big round bum. One that I found myself staring at a lot, a whole lot, especially when Nafisa thought I wasn’t looking. Yeah, I was in love with that woman but the question is, how do I tell her? I was agonizing over that dilemma, until fate took care of that for me.

I showed up at the engineering formal wearing a bright green sari, with an emerald scarf, but no hijab. I looked beautiful, if I do say so. I went as Nafisa’s guest, as usual. That night was special, though. I wanted to show her another side of me. My hidden, seductive side. So there I was, surrounded by guys in tuxedos and girls in gowns and pretty dresses, and I only had eyes for one person. Nafisa. My Nafisa. As usual, she was the social butterfly, talking to a trio of friends or acquaintances or whatever. I walked up to her and her small entourage, and got in her personal space. Care to dance? I asked her nonchalantly. Nafisa smiled, and nodded. Taking her hand in mine, I led her to the dance floor, and we began gliding gracefully.

Dancing with Nafisa, looking into her pretty face, feeling her in my arms, that felt so… right. Nafisa leaned into me, and told me I looked beautiful. Right back at you, I said with uncharacteristic boldness, and gave her big butt a firm slap. Nafisa grinned, and asked me what had gotten into me lately. This was it, another moment of truth. Time to fess up or shut up, I guess. Once again, I hesitated. How will she react when I tell her that I am in love with her and want to be with her? I don’t know. If I reveal my true feelings, I am risking rejection, not to mention our friendship. Yes, if I continued with my chosen course of action, I risked a lot. Still, there was a greater danger. If I didn’t tell her how I felt, I risked losing her. Carleton University is full of pretty girls of all shapes and sizes, all races, virtually all faiths and walks of life. How long until one of them caught Nafisa’s attention?

Looking Nafisa in the eyes, I told her that I had something to tell her. Nafisa smiled at me and wrapped her arms around me, in a decidedly more-than-friendly gesture. This was it, I thought. I’m in love with you, I blurted out. Nafisa looked at me, a puzzled look on her pretty face. For several long moments, neither of us said anything. We just looked into each other’s eyes silently. Nafisa grinned and suddenly, she pulled me closer. That’s when she kissed me. Nafisa kissed me back passionately, and then hugged me fiercely. Gently she whispered into my ear that she loved me too. All around us, people were clapping. That night, we shared our first kiss, and cemented our relationship. That was three years ago.

Yeah, it’s been a wonderful three years. Nafisa and I have been through a lot together. I was there for her when she came out to her mother, and I supported her during the fallout that followed. Nafisa found herself ostracized by her own family and branded an outcast among Nigerian Muslim society. I was there for her every step of the way, supporting her. And she was there for me the day my parents perished while on a flight from Delhi, India, to London, England. The plane went down over the ocean, and there were no survivors. The loss of my parents nearly destroyed me. I’m their sole daughter, and now I am all alone in the world. Well, not exactly. I’ve got Nafisa. And I want to be with her always. That’s why I am going to propose to her at our favorite little restaurant, Soleil Des Iles, in Vanier tonight. Wish me luck!

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