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Female converts to Islam face growing scrutiny

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Female Muslim converts acknowledge that they have heard about Muslim women trapped in abusive relationships, but say that such relationships affect women of other faiths as well.

"That has nothing to do with religion," Wentworth said. "That’s a problem with personality."

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Katherine Wilson, a convert and Rhode Island resident who works with female victims of violence and sexual assault, said the media, by focusing on Russell’s faith, missed a chance to speak about domestic violence. She believes Muslim women converts are perceived negatively because some people see their choice of faith as a knock against their own decisions.

"I believe this is partially due to white privilege in that there is not an understanding why an ‘all-American girl’ would give up her privilege-assumed, carefree lifestyle," said Wilson. "I think it bothers people that an ‘all-American woman’ would walk away from what they think is a great life, which is a stereotype within itself."

While such stereotypes still annoy these women, many say they have grown tired of having to explain their decisions to convert. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to change minds.

"There will always be those who judge based upon ignorance. They are of no concern to me," said MacDonald Rushdan. "I will keep on doing what I’ve always done. I will not apologize for being a God-fearing woman whose faith provides her with inner peace and contentment."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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