What makes all this interesting to Mormons is that a local Mormon chapel has allowed them use of their building for Friday prayers. Muslims have been praying in a local meetinghouse for several years.
In 2007, Deborah Coffey, an LDS member, helped start the Interfaith Partnership of St. Charles County. The group has interfaith dialogue meetings once a month; and, through them, she got to know Asif. He told the group there was no community center in St. Charles, though they hoped to build one, and the Muslim community in the county needed a place for Friday prayers.
Coffey started asking around. At first, one church thought it could help, but backed out after the congregation feared a community backlash.
So Coffey went to her church and got approval. Since then, a group of Muslims in St. Charles arrives at the LDS chapel each Friday. While they offered to rent the space, Coffey says there's no charge, though the group does make a donation. And in the LDS congregation, at least, there haven't been any problems with the relationship.
"From what I have seen, the members of our church have been very enthusiastic about it," she says.So, all of this got started because of an interfaith council, efforts by members of many religions to understand one another and work together. Real bridges have certainly been built between Mormons and their Muslim neighbors.
What was most interesting to me was the statistics on Muslim difficulties in setting up mosques and Islamic centers. It mirrors difficulties Mormons have experienced in building temples and sometimes even meetinghouses.
According to a September report from the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, the United States has 1,897 mosques. The report also maps out 35 mosques and Islamic centers that have met with community resistance, most notably, perhaps, the center in New York. Missouri, however, did not make the list
(The interactive map from the Pew report doesn't seem to work in Google Chrome so try it is Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer.)
The Justice Department issued its "Report on the Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act on September 22, 2010. The Act was signed into law by Clinton and been in force for ten years. The report includes some sobering statistics:
While our nation has achieved great progress in advancing civil rights, many individuals and communities continue to face discrimination and hate. For example, nearly a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans continue to struggle for acceptance in many communities, and still face discrimination. Of 18 RLUIPA matters involving possible discrimination against Muslims that the department has monitored since September 11, 2001, eight have been opened since May of 2010. This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain. [My emphasis]The report did not mention Mormons specifically. Chances are we were lumped together under the "other Christians" category which IS interesting.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters are fighting many of the same battles we have fought and are currently fighting. Significant efforts such as Ms. Coffey's fall under being anxiously engaged in a good cause of our own free will. We can all learn from her example.