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Changing religions, changing names

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Tamara Gray
After living in Syria for 20 years, Tamara Gray, 49, founded Daybreak Press Global Bookshop and Gathering Space in her native St. Paul.
Courtesy Haleema Shah

Tamara Gray is a St. Paul native and the owner of Daybreak Press, a bookshop and gathering space that serves as the publishing arm for her organization Rabata, a kind of spiritual network for Muslim women, especially those who have converted and those in scholarship.

As a student at Macalaster College in the 1980s, Gray started making choices that would have a huge influence on her identity today. One of those choices was making a subtle change in her name: from Tammy to Tamara. The other was converting to Islam after growing up Lutheran.

After college Gray moved to Syria, where she spent 20 years studying Islam. Now back in the U.S., Gray counsels Muslim converts, including those who are considering changing their names to something related to Arabic, the Quran, or Islamic history.

Changing a name after a religious conversion can be a healthy outer reflection of an inward shift, but Gray says that not making the simple change mindfully can lead into unhealthy territory. 

Listen to the audio to hear Gray's reflections on this change.

This piece is a collaboration with On Being with Krista Tippett.