Mormon-Muslim Relations

In this post I am soliciting help for a woman named Rachel Sage, who is a grad student at Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and is working on a thesis on Mormon-Muslim relations.

First, a bit about Rachel. She is from San Francisco and Alaska and served a mission to Italy. Soon after her mission she attended BYU Jerusalem, and went on to get a BA in Government and International Politics with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies at George Mason University. She has lived in Jerusalem, Lebanon, Egypt and most recently returned from a five-month stint at the University of Jordan, where she was studying Islamic culture and law as well as Arabic. Due to an illness in her family she cut her time in Jordan short and is now living in Las Vegas.

She is interested in fostering Mormon-Muslim dialogue and in establishing a task force or coalition to facilitate such interaction. I quote below the specific help she is looking for:

1) I’m looking for any LDS inter-religious alliance, group, organization etc. to set a precedence for the kind of coalition I’m proposing.

2) I’m looking for any literature other than what can be easily found from the general precursory web searches on Mormon-Muslim relations (since I am likely to already have it), including published, non-published, opinion pieces, and journal entries. I am particularly interested on literature from Muslims on Mormons if any exists.

3) I’m interested in conducting interviews with any Mormons and Muslims who have been involved with Mormon-Muslim relations and feel they can add insight to the topic. I am looking for comparative commentary (such as a Muslim who has interacted with various religious groups and can comment comparatively on their interaction with Muslims and similar situations with Mormons.) This isn’t only if it was positive, as I’m looking to identify the polemics of such interaction on which to base my recommendations for improvement as well.

4) Lastly, I’m looking for anyone in Las Vegas who would be interested in participating in an inter-religious dialogue “break-the-fast/ Iftar” October 7th, which is the Fast Sunday that coincides with the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan. Similar events have been held in Stake Centers, Universities and LDS Institute buildings, this one happens to be in the cultural hall of a mosque in Las Vegas. Because of this, I am particularly in need of people who have the talent of galvanizing people to action in the LDS community.

You may share experiences in the comments below or contact Rachel directly. Her phone number is 702-883-1974 and her e-mail is RLS33 AT Georgetown DOT edu.

Comments

  1. This may be helpful or not but when I was at BYU (1998-2002), I belonged to a student organization club called, “Arabesque” which was essentially a group of students (and friends of students) from Middle Eastern and African countries. I know at that time there was a room in the student union (The Wilk) set aside for Muslim students to use for prayer and religious activities during the day. You might try talking to Muslim students at BYU.

  2. One of the highlights of my mission was breaking the fast and teaching a discussion in a Mosque durring Ramadan.

    Our stake center is right next to a Mosque. I know there is dialogue, but I don’t know to what extent.

  3. I would think that Bonner Ritchie would be the place to start. He wrote a great article in the Kennedy Dept. Publication a couple of years ago that would be a great start.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    You could talk to Rob Davis, the Mormon police chief who observed the entire Ramadan fast to show solidarity with the 10-15,000 Muslims in his San Jose community. Here is one of many articles you could find.

  5. David Howlett says:

    Wallace B. Smith, the former CofC prophet, has a daughter who is engaged in Christian-Muslim dialogue in London (I think). As a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr., she would be an interesting conversation partner. CofC Apostle Andrew Bolton has been highly involved in inter-religious dialogue for decades. He could put you in contact with many people in the CofC who do this kind of dialogue. His e-mail is abolton@cofchrist.org. While he is very busy (he is in India at the moment), I’m sure he would make time to field your questions. His apostolic field includes South-east and South-central Asia.

  6. I am curious.

    What would happen if one of the local Muslim families in say Las Vegas converted to Mormonism as a result of a inter-faith dialogue?

  7. Rachel Sage says:

    Thank you for all of your leads!

    By the way, I have caught wind of an LDS-Catholic initiative at BYU law school as well as a Mormon-Jewish type coalition. Anyone ever hear of these and can provide more information or possible contacts?

    Rachel

    p.s.
    I just missed a call from the University of New Haven that was likely a referral from this forum. Please call back I just barely missed your call. :)

  8. KyleM and I must be in the same stake. Our stake center is immediately next door to a mosque, and apart from some obvious issues, like allowing them access to our parking lot for their festivals and meetings, I know the bishops in the two wards that occupy the building have had regular contact with the leaders of the mosque. This has been an ongoing relationship for about 5 or six years now. I’d be glad to put you in touch with the bishops, one of which is a convert from East Africa, I believe, and he may have some additional insights.

    I don’t have the reference with me, and haven’t had time to research it, but Pres. Packer spoke about the church and Islam at BYU a few years back. If you can’t find it, I know I have a copy at home.

  9. As a missionary in Eastern Europe in the late 1990s, we were asked not to teach Muslims. I was under the impression that this was part of a church-wide missionary policy, although I never saw any written policy and I never heard the policy formally articulated or explained. All I had was a vague notion that were were not to disrupt Muslim family ties. (We actually taught one German teenager who had converted to Islam a few years previously. Our mission office gave us permission to teach him, probably because the rest of his family was not Muslim.)

    Rachel may already know much more about this policy than I have remembered here. If not, it may be something interesting to look into — I imagine there may be some current church policy about the extent to which we can proselyte Muslims. It should not be hard to find a former mission president who may have more information.

  10. On my mission we had a policy of not teaching Muslims as well. This policy was crafted after a muslim family was converted and an attempt was made on their lives by their relatives and fellow mosque members. This happened in South Africa in 1993. The family received asylum in the US after their daughter married a missionary (long story) and the last I heard was in Orem.

    The flat out stated reason for our policy was the threat of violence (as demonstrated) from the Islamic community based on the death penalty for conversion found in Sharia law.

    My brother in law served in Southern Russia and had similar teaching restrictions

  11. Antonio Parr says:
  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Rachel, regarding your desire to find Mormons to participate in a “break the fast” in Las Vegas, I would suggest you talk to your local public affairs people (every stake has a public affairs committee).

    I’m on the public affairs committee of my stake here near Chicago (I’m the community relations guy), and I’ve got to tell you that the public affairs people in our region are simply awesome. I am so impressed with these brothers and sisters. At the highest levels (above my pay grade) they know Father Michael Pfleger, a controversial and activist Catholic Priest in Chicago. They have, as I privately told you, arranged for joint Muslim and Mormon youth activities in Buffalo Grove. They are very open and desirous of establishing relationships of friendship with other faiths.

    So I would suggest you leverage the established infrastructure of your local stakes. This is exactly the kind of thing your local public affairs people should be involved in and should embrace.

  13. marrakech says:

    What would Muslims think about Mormon beliefs in plural Gods, a Council of Gods, and the idea that man may become a God? Don’t they take their belief in the “One God” pretty seriously? The Muslim faith is quite respectful of Christians and Jews for being fellow believers in the “One God”. They believe in the Old Testament prophets and that Jesus was a prophet. Islam is not so respectful, or tolerant, of polytheistic beliefs.

  14. There isn’t a strict prohibition against teaching all Muslims even though there generally is. It depends on where they are living at the time and especially what country they are from. There are Muslim-majority countries with active proselytizing going on and Muslims being baptized. It would be interesting to explore the differences in Muslim-Mormon relations in different parts of the world because there truly are significant differences.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    marrakech, Christians may have convinced themselves that they are monotheists, but they haven’t convinced Muslims. From the monotheistic perspective of Islam, a belief in the Trinity does not a monotheist make.

    So the answer to your question is that of course Muslims would reject these particular aspects of LDS thought. But they would also and similarly reject the classical dogma of the Trinity. You are quite right that Muslims are perhaps the most rigorous of monotheists.

  16. Gregory Taggart says:

    I’ve heard that the Maxwell Institute’s METI or Middle East Text Initiative is being well received in the Muslim world. You might want to check it out.

  17. I guess Mormon Muslim relations will kind of depend on whether Muslims value correct belief more than correct practice or vis versa.

    If they’re anything like Protestants, it won’t matter how righteous your people are – the theology is going to be a deal-breaker.

    Whereas Jews on the other hand, almost couldn’t care less what odd stuff you think about the afterlife as long as you live a moral life.

  18. Amira, which majority-Muslim countries are you referring to that have active proselytizing?

    My experience in southern France at the time the church put restrictions on converting Muslims was that the convertee had to have legal residence in France so there was no chance of a forced return to the country of origin (usually Algeria). Although I spent a lot of time “teaching” Muslims(actually they usually were trying out their version of the first discussion to convert us) I never saw a practicing Muslim convert.

  19. I am sorry to see so much debate on conversion and proselytizing. I look forward to the day we can more ardently devote ourselves to building bridges with other religions. Thank you all for your suggestions and help. On that note I will leave this thought on Interfaith Relations:

    President Gordon B. Hinckley has consistently advocated dialogue and mutual respect in interfaith relations. He has admonished members of the Church to cultivate “a spirit of affirmative gratitude” for those of differing religious, political, and philosophical persuasions, adding that “we do not in any way have to compromise our theology” in the process. He gave this counsel: “Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.”

    Elder Russell M. Nelson quoted a public statement issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in October 1992, calling upon “all people everywhere to re-commit themselves to the time-honored ideals of tolerance and mutual respect. We sincerely believe that as we acknowledge one another with consideration and compassion we will discover that we can all peacefully coexist despite our deepest differences.”

    Lastly, In a recent talk by President Boyd K. Packer, he stated, “Church members and Muslims share similar high standards of decency, temperance, and morality. We have so much in common. As societal morality and behavior decline in an increasingly permissive world, the Church and many within Islam increasingly share natural affinities.”
    Salam,
    Rachel

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