As an adolescent, Jackson Heights resident Carla Carballo, 29, would greet her male friends in typical Latin fashion - with a kiss on the cheek.
However, ever since she converted to Islam a decade ago, Carballo, who is single, has given up that custom and no longer socializes with men who are not relatives.
Carballo was eight years old when her family immigrated to the United States from Bolivia. She was drawn to Islam primarily because of the conservative lifestyle it endorses for women and began using the hijab (the Islamic veil) immediately after converting.
"My self esteem depended on how people saw me. Now, the only opinion that matters to me is that of my family," explains Carballo, who was employed as a promoter for a nightclub before converting and now spends several months out of the year in Korea teaching English to school-aged children.