Behind every statistic, though, is a story.
Twenty-four-year-old Maria Ahmad recently organized an interfaith “speed dating” event at Indiana University Kokomo. Students got to know each other’s spiritual beliefs in two-minute intervals.
They asked each other questions like, “What happens when we die?” and “What values do you hold most dear?”
Trying to understand people’s religious beliefs is an important part of fostering diversity in a community, said Ahmad, the director of diversity at IU Kokomo.
“It’s often overlooked, especially in public institutions,” she said. “They think, ‘Oh, you can’t talk about this here.’”
Ahmad has never shied away from sharing her religious beliefs. She wears a very visible symbol of her faith for all to see — a hijab or head covering — that prompts questions from those around her.
Ahmad is a Muslim.
She believes in one God and that the prophet Mohammed was the last messenger. His example and the words of the Quran guide her life.
Like all Muslims, she believes in Moses, Jesus, Abraham and all of the other Christian prophets. She believes the Quran is the final edition of the Bible.
Ahmad prays five times each day.
“The five prayers to me are an opportunity to center myself in my busy day of emails, calls and meetings,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to calm down and realize what life is really about, kind of like meditating throughout the day.”
When she prays, she faces toward Mecca, which is northeast here in the Midwest. Each of the five prayers has a number of "sets,” which include bowing and prostrating with her forehead to the ground.
“It is a sign of humility before God,” she said. “All the prayers are from the Quran and are recited in Arabic. You can pray anywhere you want, and I often end up praying in my office.”