Utah Muslims weigh in on new LDS Church pamphlet comparing Latter-day Saint faith and Islam

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A new pamphlet released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints represents the latest effort by its leaders to foster understanding among Muslims and eradicate Islamophobia from its ranks — an effort that remains a work in progress, say those who know the problem well.

Titled “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Ways of Life,” the 35-page document focuses on shared practices and beliefs between the two religious communities, including an emphasis on family, prayer, fasting and charity.

The booklet represents “the fruit of years of work, including collaboration with Muslim imams,” according to a press release from the church.

“At a time when societies and religious believers want and need mutual understanding,” he begins, “this pamphlet represents a conscientious effort to offer dignity and tolerance to Muslims and Latter-day Saints.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A copy of the booklet “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Ways of Life.”

Luna Banuri, executive director of the Muslim Civic League of Utah, was among those who reviewed and offered excerpts from the pamphlet ahead of its release.

“They have done a very good job,” Banuri said, “presenting a holistic view of Islam that any reader can relate to and understand.”

Still, she stressed that more needs to be done to change the attitudes of some Latter-day Saints, explaining that she and her family have experienced “othering” while living in Utah because of their Muslim identity.

(Photo courtesy) Luna Banuri is executive director of the Muslim Civic League of Utah.

Satin Tashnizi is the co-founder and executive director of Emerald Project, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit that aims to combat the misrepresentation of Islam.

On the one hand, she says, she has witnessed a lot of openness and interest from Latter-day Saints who have attended events her team has organized on misinformation about Islam.

“LDS individuals have really gone out of their way,” she said, “to come and ask questions and be respectful.”

At the same time, she, like Banuri, often witnessed a discrepancy between the more inclusive attitudes of Mormon leaders and those expressed by a number of Latter-day Saints in Utah.

(Courtesy photo) Satin Tashnizi is the co-founder and executive director of The Emerald Project.

The Trump Effect

Perhaps the best example, she said, is former President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries. Trump first proposed “banning Muslims” in December 2015 when he was running for president. Latter-day Saint leaders denounced the proposal as an attack on religious freedom, citing the words of church founder Joseph Smith.

“If it has been demonstrated that I was willing to die for a ‘Mormon’, I am bold to declare before heaven that I am equally willing to die for the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any denomination,” Smith said in 1843. “For the same principle which would trample the rights of Latter-day Saints would trample the rights of Roman Catholics, or any other denomination that might be unpopular and too weak to defend himself.”

Muslims in Utah “enjoy their [Latter-day Saint leaders’] understanding,” Imam Shuaib Din of the Islamic Center of Utah said at the time.

Trump has never backed down on politics, returning to it several times during the campaign trail. A majority of Latter-day Saints still voted for him in 2016. That’s one reason, Tashnizi wrote in an email, “many Muslims are ambivalent about public statements of support “like this brochure.

Morgan Davis – a researcher at Brigham Young University’s Maxwell Institute, where he works in Islamic studies and comparative religion – has worked closely on many occasions with high-ranking religious leaders on outreach to Muslim leaders .

“We went to the United Nations,” he said. “We had several meetings in various embassies, events in London, Cairo and Amman [Jordan’s capital] build bridges and almost always a member of the [Quorum of the] Twelve Apostles were there.

On one occasion he said that the late Apostle Richard G. Scott asked him to train him on an Arabic phrase which he then used to recite at the beginning of his remarks at such an event.

“My reading is that church leaders have been pretty consistent and actually quite forward-thinking” when it comes to promoting interfaith dialogue with Muslims, Davis said, an openness that, according to his experience, has not always translated into the larger modern world. holy community.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “there is a great deal of ignorance and misinformation among Latter-day Saints in North America.

A common question he often hears from other members is: “’When will Muslims finally speak out against terrorism?’ And it’s frustrating because, of course, Muslims denounce terrorism, but they are drowned out by the alarmist media.

Apostle David A. Bednar addressed this point during an Islam conference held at BYU in October, stating that “to suggest that all Muslims are linked to serious crimes here in the United States or elsewhere in the world is… inaccurate and offensive to Muslims”.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint Apostle David A. Bednar meets with the Sufi Religious Council in Sudan.

For Davis, statements like this and the new brochure indicate that church leaders are aware of and committed to eliminating the harmful stereotypes of Muslims held by many members.

“It’s not a point,” he said, “that they dither on.”

The global growth of Islam

More broadly, Davis believes the pamphlet is proof that church leaders recognize that Islam “is on its way to becoming the dominant religion in the world.”

A study by the Pew Research Center found that there are 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide – a number that is projected to reach 3 billion by 2060.

“People think Islam is a Middle Eastern religion, but it’s actually very global,” said Davis, who is working on a book comparing the Quran and the Book of Mormon. This makes understanding the faith critical not only for the general membership of the church, but also especially for its missionaries.

“A lot of the areas of church growth are in countries where Islam is really widespread,” he said. “There is a real need for missionaries to be literate about Islam beyond a paragraph in [the missionary guide] ‘Preach my gospel.’”

Added to the urgency are all the ways church members engage with Muslims through humanitarian projects and service.

“The church partners with humanitarian projects all over the world that are often Muslim-based,” he said. A brochure like this could help to “facilitate mutual understanding and respect” in these contexts as well.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint Charities President Sharon Eubank, far right, speaks at Camp Sharya in Iraq with Programs Manager Karzan Noori of the Barzani Charity Foundation, as Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham, far left, looks on.

When asked what more the church could do to help support Muslims, and Utah Muslims in particular, Tashnizi suggested that leaders should use their influence to advocate for public policies. which make it easier for “Muslims to fast, pray and celebrate”. [their holidays] in public schools and in the workplace.

Banuri echoed that sentiment.

“If you’re really committed to eradicating prejudice,” she said, “there needs to be a lot sharper work in and around politics.”

Individuals can access the booklet at ChurchofJesus Christ.org, where it is available in six languages, including Arabic.

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