Guest Post: Islam and Mormonism

Fatimah (not her real name) is a friend of mine. She, like many British-born children of immigrants to the UK, is a recovering Muslim. As much as I whinge about what my family will do when I leave the LDS Church, it’s nothing to what she faces if she is outed as an atheist. One of her relatives has been murdered in an honour killing back home in Pakistan. Fatimah successfully resisted an attempt by her father to marry her to a first cousin before she went to University by leaving home for good. Her younger sisters were taken from school early and have been married off to cousins or men significantly older. Her brothers, who did not gain an education, call her a whore for living on her own, dating whomever she likes, refusing to wear the hijab, and supporting herself with a good job. She has very little contact with her family, except for calls to her mother and secret e-mails to her sisters. I’ve asked her to summarise what she observes to be the similarities between Islam and Mormonism. This is the first time she has felt comfortable saying anything about religion online. For this reason, I will be enacting stricter moderation than usual in the comment section.

When “Molly” told me her handle on this site, I asked her why she chose it. She explained that “Molly Mormon” is an ideal stereotype of a Mormon Girl. For this reason I’ll be known as “Fatimah,” the closest approximation a Mormon girl could have. Fatimah (pronounced “FUT-ee-muh”) was the daughter of Muhammad, founder of Islam. She is thought of as an ideal example for Muslimahs (Muslim women) to look to.

I have been asked to list what I observe to be similarities between Mormonism and Islam. I must admit she helped with a bit of editing in writing this, as I am no writer. Here are the five best examples I can think of. I did not include things like a strong patriarchal culture. I do not feel that patriarchy is unique enough to Islam or Mormonism.

Veneration of the prophet

This seems to be the most direct similarity to me. Mormons refer to Joseph Smith by his first name and all the rest of their prophets as “President.” When I saw Mormons referring to “The Prophet Joseph” or “The Boy Joseph” or “Brother Joseph” I saw the same sort of veneration as when a Muslim says “God’s Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)”. Like Muhammad, Joseph Smith seems to be looked at as a saviour of humanity and is spoken of as if he were a perfect figure.

A difference in the treatment of the prophets is that Mormons seem to add the honorific for extra emphasis and formality, but many Muslims feel “PBUH” is mandatory, and they mutter it repeatedly and write it even when mentioning Muhammad online. Also, Mormons will not become violent if someone slanders the name of Joseph Smith. They will probably invite you to tea and smile at you in an infuriating manner. They will not burn an embassy, riot in the street, or kill people at the mere rumour of offence to The Prophet. Even among Muslims who would not cross the line to doing violence themselves, it is common for them to verbally express support for the killing of kuffar, which is a dirty word for non-believers. My own parents would frequently say things such as “God willing, that person will die for . . .” and then follow with whatever supposed crime against God had been committed. Molly explained briefly about Danites and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but we both agreed that Mormons have been entirely non-violent for over a century. There are many incidents of Muslims becoming violent over even the rumour of blasphemy against the Koran or Muhammad.

Veneration of scripture

Mormons and Muslims are both obsessed with proclaiming that their book is the pure and sacred word of God. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct book” in the world. (When I read that quotation I must admit I laughed.) Muslims also believe the Koran to be the pure and unerring word of Allah.

However, Muslims take their book even more seriously than Mormons. Mormons do not venerate the text of the Book of Mormon as much as Muslims do the Koran because they are happy to translate it into as many languages as possible. Most Muslims believe that once the Koran has been translated, it is no longer the word of God. This contributes to a Arab-centric racism within Islam. Arabs occupy a higher status and non-Arab Muslims frequently try to imitate Arabs in language and dress. Mormons seem more accepting of diversity, and do not believe that the Book of Mormon must be read in English in order to be the word of God. It does seem that only white men are in charge of the Mormon church, though, so perhaps my impression of Mormonism as being less racist is wrong.

Mormons also do not venerate the printed copies of the Book of Mormon as much as Muslims. The Koran sometimes has its own little room in the house. Muslims often kiss it or keep it wrapped in silk. At the mere rumour of a Koran being desecrated or burned, riots can happen in some Muslim areas. Molly showed me her Book of Mormon. It was covered in pencil markings with writing in the margins. I found this very funny. But then, it seems much more logical to me to treat a book as just that: a book. The message is what matters, not ink on paper. Mormons would probably consider the veneration of the Koran itself to be a form of blasphemy.

Taboos

Mormonism and Islam share many taboos. In art, Muslims do not depict human faces. Likewise, Mormons shun the cross. Open discussion of sex is not socially permitted. Mormons and Muslims seem very uncomfortable with their own bodies. They are not permitted to drink alcohol or masturbate. Molly and I found much in common among young Muslim and Mormon married couples unable to enjoy themselves because they have gone their entire lives being told that sex is a dirty thing. Muslims have more taboos than Mormons. Mormons seem very enthusiastic about music, theatre, and literature. All three are heavily restricted in most Muslim cultures.

A goal of taking over the world

This may sound sinister, but that depends on your perspective. Phrases like “the gospel will roll out through all the earth” or “temples will dot the globe” sound very much like what Muslims think of as the eventual Islamisation of the world. Molly told me that Mormons believe that eventually there will be a Mormon communist theocracy. I understood her to mean a secular and religious government fused during The Millennium. This sounds very much like Islam’s goal to unite all of mankind as one Ummah, or Islamic community. Most Muslims and Mormons speak about the Mormonisation or Islamisation of the world as something people will be happy about once they see the truthfulness of Elohim’s/Allah’s true path.

A large difference is that in all places where Islam is dominant, forced conversion is accepted. It is not difficult to find examples of this, for example the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of Coptic Christian girls to Muslim men in Egypt. I do not believe Mormons would ever be in favour of forced conversion, as Mormonism emerged in a culture affected by the European Enlightenment and not in a nomadic culture of raiders as Islam was. Mormonism is also much more tolerant of other faith systems. The state of Utah seems to be run by mostly Mormons. Yet I could find no evidence of efforts to prevent other faiths from entering there. Not far from BYU, Molly told me, there is a large Hindu temple, and many BYU students attend its holy events. In Muslim-majority states, the rights of non-Muslims are severely restricted, and my experience as a British Muslim has been that Muslims here have begun to attempt to force the native population to conform to their standards, such as demanding halal food from non-Muslim shops and encouraging gender segregation at public schools.

Mormons seem comfortable with applying social pressure and using the law to enact their values on society, but while both religions have the goal of conquering the earth, I do not believe Mormonism would be comfortable using force to spread the faith. Islam openly encourages spreading the religion by force.

A dress code used as a measure of personal virtue

Mormons look down on people who do not wear garments. Molly showed me hers, long forgotten in a bottom drawer, and I was surprised to see that there was a Western religion that had something as ugly as hijab. I hated wearing hijab. But I knew if I took it off, my brothers would call me a whore, as they do now. My mother neglected to force hijab on me until I was beginning to look like a woman, and at first I fought against her, saying that my mates at school already knew my hair was black. I didn’t want to look different from the other kids. It’s easy enough to follow Islamic dress as a child without being bullied too badly. England is so cold most of the year that thick jumpers and long coats don’t look out of place. But once I had hijab placed on me, I knew people would think of me as a religious nutter, or some kind of beaten down girl.

Hijab was supposed to make me invisible to the world, but in reality it made people take note of me more often. When I got to school I would run to the loo and remove it. My mates would help me keep a lookout for my brothers, who would get angry if they caught me without it. I was so happy when they left school early and got jobs. It meant that I could let my hair down and look like an ordinary girl. Other Muslimahs at my school would do the same thing. This struggle is very common for British-born Muslim girls, who can see that Western culture offers them much more than the culture of their parents. They don’t want to marry a first cousin back in Pakistan in an arranged marriage. They don’t want to cover their bodies with uncomfortable and restrictive layers of cloth. I think many Mormon girls must feel the same way about the ugly and old-fashioned knickers they are forced to wear.

Conclusion

Mormonism and Islam appear to be very similar in nature, but the environment in which they were nurtured had an enormous part to play. As Wafa Sultan has written, Islam was born in a culture of desert raiders. It seems to me that Mormonism was born in a setting of Christian mystics trying to rediscover the ancient true path. In my opinion, Mormonism is a sweet baby sister, and Islam is an angry older brother. Mormons talk rubbish about women who dress immodestly. Muslims whip them. Mormons excommunicate adulterers. Muslims stone them to death. Mormons shun apostates. Muslim scripture says they must die. These are cruel truths. Unfortunately the political situation is so tense that Westerners will rarely speak them, and we have to rely on people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali to remind us of them.

I don’t wish to diminish the personal difficulties of people who struggle with their Mormon backgrounds, but instead offer this as encouragement: at least nobody will kill you for what you do not believe. However, psychological abuse can do as much damage as being beaten or whipped, so perhaps my comparison is not fair. In either case, I believe the world will be better off when fewer people adhere to both Mormonism and Islam, along with most other forms of religion.

17 thoughts on “Guest Post: Islam and Mormonism

  1. Islam is like Mormonism except where it differs – frankly the same article could be written about any faith pairing. The comparison I find most amusingly ironic, among the conservative practitioners in both groups, is the willingness to blend secular and sacred law. It’s a comparison that offends the American Taliban wannabes in the religious wrong, but it’s the same mentality driving it.

  2. That sure puts a different spin on things. I applaud you Fatimah.. I know for you taking a stand is more that just saying the words. Love and Light to you..

  3. Fascinating — and very informative. Yes, there are different methods to impose religious oppression but I agree that the very real threat of violence against non-conformers is much more oppressive than the shunning I’ve experienced. Of course, violence against apostates was considered an appropriate option during the early history of the LDS church, particularly when Brigham Young was King of his own theocracy. But you’ve made me appreciate the fact that my path to freedom was much less dangerous than what so many other women face. You’ve also made me grateful for the brave women (and men) who have gone before and thus made my path easier.

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Fatima. My best wishes to you in your own journey.

  4. I don’t know if I’d call mormonism a “sweet baby sister.” lol. I really admire people who are risking their lives by leaving their religion though. I guess we ex-mormons are pretty lucky that nowadays we will not be killed for leaving. I often compare Muslims and Mormons just because I don’t see other religions whose members are SO devoted. One is definitely more fanatical and dangerous than the other though.

  5. Thank you so much for writing this, I found it fascinating! I have written in my own blog against Islamophobia, and I hold true to my former statements about it. I agree with you completely when you point out the drastically different climates these two faith traditions grew from – the least of which being that they began over 1000 years apart from each other. I think people don’t seem to realize that, Muhammed attempted in many ways to reform the culture he lived in. I think that he and his followers have not done enough to eradicate things are only cultural traditions but are perpetuated as a kind of doctrine.

    Very nice post!!

  6. Geez. Perspective indeed, and my little family have gotten through it with little stripes compared to other LDS apostates.

    My best wishes and thoughts to you, Fatimah. You’re a heroine, I hope you know that.

  7. You have a gtreat Blog and I enjoy reading it. some heavy wisdom here. Ref: Your excellent post on Mormonism and Islam, let me add:

    Both belief systems teach that they have the only true and complete religion/ faith on the face of the earth.

    Both reject Christianity as corrupted.

    Both taught the plurality of wives, both on earth and in here-after

    Both teach that the Bible is corrupt and mistranslated.

    Both revealed God’s true scripture.

    Both reject original sin and the doctrine of the trinity.

    Both teach a salvation by good works.

    Both use special training classes to ingrain their dogma in their youth

    Both use a lay clergy.

    Both founded by a holy uneducated prophet

    Both founding prophets had angelic visitations that they were to restore Adamic religion.

    Both prophets words/teachings were above scripture or earlier prophets.

    Both teach a theocratic form of government

    Both teach a here-after with graded rewards for works.

    Both claim to be the world’s fastest growing religion.

    • I read Smith’s book and the first time through it was a little befuddling. The second time through I finally caught on to his sense of humour and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was equal parts 1984, Dante’s Inferno, and The Big Lebowski.

  8. Pingback: We’re going to conquer the world . . . politely « Molly Muses . . .

  9. Thanks for your post Fatimah, very courageous.
    I’ll definitely vouch for the psychological/emotional abuse that comes with leaving mormonism, but I greatly appreciate your perspective. I believe that persecuting people in any way for having different beliefs is fundamentally wrong.
    I hope you stay safe and happy 🙂

  10. Real Mormonism is equally comparable with Islam. I am not even talking about modern Fundamentalist Mormonism, but real Mormonism as was practiced by many Mormons before the 1890s.

    Similarties with Islam:

    Polygamy – In real Mormon teaching polygamy is suppose to be practiced.

    Racism, White Centrism Mormonism/Arab centrism is Islam – While Mormon teaching doesn’t promote racism in the sense that the KKK Christians do, it still promotes whites as special, pure, and “delightful”, blacks are the “curse of Cain” and race mixing is wrong. The mainstream LDS church has moved further away from White-American centric ideology, but many believers and many fundamentalist churches still follow the teaching that the “Northern Countries” which is stated in Mormon scripture are Gods chosen people. Some Fundamentalist Sects like the Kingston clan, and FLDS not only promote this idea, but they dis-courage mixing even with other white people.

    Blasphemy – In original Mormon teachings, Blasphemy was punishable if your were in the church. In fact, immodest blasphemy, and wrong doings were punishable through the concept of “blood atonement”, which is basically the practice of murder, or getting revenge on a follower who’ve sinned.

    Drugs, Clothing, Drinking – Like Islam, original Mormon conservatism discouraged drinking, using drugs, even smoking. It encouraged (and still does) modest, but formal and modern attire. Long ago, because mainstream Mormonism moved away from a sort of American folk religion to an international corporate mega church (like most US churches nowadays), the choice of clothing was plain, which was mainly do to the pioneer, desert and rural life-style.

    Children and family – The Mormon church has always been one of the strongest supporters of traditional style families (no abortions, contraceptives). However, over the past few decades these ideas have seeped through. Yet, births are still higher than the rest of America. Average Mormon family (not Utah) has about 3 kids, while Utah as a whole which is 60% Mormon, has about 2.4 kids – back in the 60s it was over 4 kids for Utah. The more traditional Mormon families and splinter groups probably have some of the largest families in the Western world – at last for the more fundamentalist groups who may have as many as 7 or more kids. The long time stronghold of Mormon fundamentalism in Hildale, Utah, the average age is just 13.1 yrs old, compared with 39.5 for the UK population.

    Mormonism is similar, but different. Main differences is Mormonism never was able to institutionalize itself like Islam was able to do in the Arab world. So, the only place you’ll find true practicing Mormons are in the sects, funddies – who’ve hid from government for decades. Islam on the other hand was protected and nurtured in the Muslim world, it became a power through Imperial conquest (Ottoman, Islamic empires), and it dominated it’s part of the world – never being a minority or having to hide or run from the government. Islam was further able to solidify itself by being ruled by monarchs and theocracies – similar to how Christianity was very strong in Europe for over a thousands years under the Russia, Byzantine, Holy Roman, and other empires who forced and promoted Christian culture at every level of their society.

  11. Welcome to apostasy from another ex-Muslim, Fatimah. I am lucky that I was a convert, so I don’t have to fear my family. I live in an area where Muslims are pretty rare, as well. But I don’t hide the fact that I left Islam. I understand a lot of apostates do have to because of their family and/or where they are living.Keep yourself safe!

    I am curious as to what your beliefs are now. I am agnostic, and attend a Unitarian congregation.

    Anisah

  12. Mormonism is the Islam of the USA.
    Both belief systems teach that they have the only true and complete religion/ faith on the face of the earth.
    Both reject Christianity as corrupted.
    Both taught/teach the plurality of wives, both on earth and in here-after
    Both teach that the Bible is corrupt and mistranslated.
    Both revealed God’s true scripture.
    Both reject original sin and the doctrine of the trinity.
    Both teach a salvation by good works.
    Both use a lay clergy.
    Both founded by a holy uneducated prophet
    Both founding prophets had angelic visitations that they were to restore Adamic religion.
    Both prophets words/teachings were above scripture or earlier prophets.
    Both teach a theocratic form of government
    Both teach a here-after with graded rewards for works.
    Both claim to be the world’s fastest growing religion.

  13. Remember…. They Both have…..!
    An emphasis upon family, and the family unit as the foundation for religious life and the transmission of values; Insistence that their religion is a complete way of life, meant to directly influence every facet of existence;

    A belief that theirs constitutes the one and only completely true religion on the earth today;
    A founding prophet who allegedly received visits from an angel, leading to revelation of a book of scripture;
    Belief that good deeds are required for salvation, just as much as faith;
    Assertions that modern Christianity does not conform to the original religion taught by Jesus Christ;
    Belief that the text of the Bible, as presently constituted, has been adulterated from its original form;
    Rejection of the Christian doctrines of Original Sin and the Trinity;
    Strong emphasis upon education, both in the secular and religious arenas;
    Belief in fasting during specified periods of time;
    Incorporation of a sacred ritual of ablution, though each religion’s rite differs in form, frequency and purpose;
    Belief that their faith represents the genuine, original religion of Adam, and of all true prophets thereafter;
    Prohibition of alcoholic beverages and gambling, as well as homosexuality and bisexuality;
    Belief that one’s marriage can potentially continue into the next life, if one is faithful to the religion;

    Belief in varying degrees of reward and punishment in the hereafter, depending upon one’s performance in this life;
    Special reverence for, though not worship of, their founding prophet;
    Emphasis upon charitable giving, and helping the downtrodden;
    An active interest in proselytizing nonbelievers;
    Strong emphasis upon chastity, including modesty in dress; and
    A clergy drawn from the laity, without necessarily requiring collegiate or seminary training.

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