Krista Ramsey, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Eighteen years ago, when Shakila Ahmad offered to arrange tours of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati where she's a member, she thought she was volunteering for a single weekend.
Since then, 70,000 visitors have stopped by.
What Ahmad offered visitors was an opportunity the vast majority of Americans never get -- to enter a mosque, discuss matters of faith face-to-face with their Muslim countrymen and find out what Islam is and what it isn't.
The reward, Ahmad says, is "seeing the transformation on a person's face and hearing them ask a difficult question without feeling ashamed or embarrassed."
"We're not the same," she says, "but we have far more in common than we have differences."
Ahmad has spent years advancing that message while serving on an array of influential local boards and quietly living it out as a neighbor, volunteer, professional, wife and mother.
From here on, her work won't be done so quietly.
Last month, she assumed one of the area's highest-profile religious leadership roles when she was elected president of the Islamic center's board of trustees -- the first woman to hold the role in the Center's 18-year history and only its second president. (Read more)