Daily Utah Chronicle

Posted by Daily Utah Chronicle on August 24, 2014 in News Clips

Nearly every religion in the world has a fundamentalist or extremist sect that has distanced itself from the ideals taught by the religion they are affiliated with. Groups such as the KKK or the FLDS church claim to be Christian but act in ways that most would consider very “un-Christ like.” Yet for the most part, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Christians in general have been successful in separating themselves from association with their fundamental counterparts.

One group that struggles to distance themselves from the shadow of its extremist factions is Islam. A recent poll done by the Arab American Institute found that only 27 percent of Americans hold a positive view of Muslims, due in large part to the fact that many Americans unfortunately equate moderate Islam with fundamentalist or militant Islamic groups. One reason for this is that many Americans simply haven’t had any meaningful firsthand experiences with an adherent of the religion. In the same study, over half of the respondents said they felt they didn’t know enough about Islamic history or people. It is easy to fear what one does not understand, and it’s hard to understand a group of people when your only information source is news reports of suicide bombings on the other side of the world.

I was lucky enough to have many long conversations with followers of Islam when I was an LDS missionary in France. I found Muslims to be some of the nicest people I met during my two years there. They invited me into their homes to share a plate of couscous, a popular north-African dish. I saw how the parents treated each other and their children with respect and love. They have a faith and devotion to their beliefs that I find admirable. I don’t know if I could go thirty days without eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. And if you think Mormons are “weird” for not drinking or smoking, Muslims live by a similar code of health, which includes abstaining from pork. Anyone who has eaten a pork salad from Café Rio has to respect someone who will make that kind of sacrifice for their beliefs.

I would encourage everyone to make the effort to gain a better understanding of Islam. Check out a book at the library, watch a documentary or even Google ‘top ten beautiful passages in the Quran.’ But the best way, of course, is to actually meet and talk with a practicing Muslim, who I am sure would be glad to answer your questions. If we all did that, I’m sure there would be a lot fewer of those ignorant bumper stickers that say, “All I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.” Let us all focus on the best in each other, no matter where we come from, what we look like or what we believe in.

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