While Muslims in the USA have felt increasingly isolated from mainstream America since 9/11, they have found one group, the Mormons, who have reached out with understanding and friendship according to a recent LA Times article.
“We are very aware of the history of Mormons as a group that was chastised in America. They can be a good model for any group that feels alienated.”
Muslims and Mormons seem to have a growing relationship on a number of different levels, often they are co-hosts of a number of educational and social programs.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) has become the largest single contributor to the largest Muslim charity in the West, the Buena Park, CA-based Islamic Relief. The church reportedly has donated $20 million in goods and services since 2004, nearly 20% of the charity’s annual budget. A lot of the funds were used in relief for the 2004 tsunami.
Also, members of the Mormon Church have increasingly reached out to different Muslim organizations and have been in the forefront in visiting local mosques during ‘open house’ days. Steve Gilliland, LDS director of Muslim relations for Southern California explains the interest this way:
“We both come from traditions where there has been persecution in the past and continues to be prejudice. That helps us Mormons identify with Muslims.”
Both religions are said to have a lot in common including special dietary laws, abstinence from alcohol, a strong emphasis on patriarchal families, with an abiding belief in maintaining feminine modesty, and chastity.
Some Muslims have also said that they are comfortable among the Mormons. Haitham Bundakji, former chairman of the Islamic Society of Orange County, puts it this way:
“When I go to a Mormon church I feel at ease. When I heard the president [of LDS] speak a few years ago, if I’d closed my eyes I’d have thought he was an imam.”
Both groups have felt somewhat alienated from the rest of the country based upon their religions. Since 9/11, Muslims have felt the continuing sting of accusation, while the recent experience of national exposure, brought on by Gov. Romney’s run for president, was largely uncomfortable for the LDS.