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.


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.


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.

Beat Your Wife and Children Properly

Not a good day for Islamic political figures today. The newest black sheep in the Saudi Royal family was convicted in London of murdering his servant after a lengthy history of abusing him. Islamists held in prison with Prince Saud Abdulawhatever have also been making threats at him because the prince has now been outed as not only a sadistic psychopath, but also a party boy who loved to carouse with alcohol and rentboys. Solitary confinement in a British prison never looked so good; if he ever gets back to Saudi Arabia, I doubt even his family connections will keep him from being executed for the capital crime of being very, very gay.

The real story boiling my blood is the case of two battered women in the United Arab Emirates, where after a man brutally attacked his wife and daughter he was told it’s just fine to beat them, but he went a bit too far by leaving physical marks.

The Koran does specify proper procedure for wife beating. I consulted a recovering Muslim friend, Fatima (not her real name), and she agreed that it is impossible to read those verses in a way that does not give tacit approval to a man being violent toward his wife, both psychologically and physically. Keep in mind that Muslims are obligated to accept the Koran as the pure unadulterated actual words of god. At least other faiths acknowledge human beings as intermediaries. For Islam, the Koran is much less negotiable than other forms of scripture. The only way around the teaching is to move into a reformed or post-Muslim mindset and ignore these verses, the way many modern Christian sects view the unsavoury parts of the Old Testament, but to openly advocate this would be viewed as apostasy by most Muslims. Essentially, all non-new-age schools of Islamic thought agree that a Muslim man has the right to humiliate his wife. What they argue over is how hard she should be hit. It’s astonishing to see people miss the point that any form of humiliation, even symbolic, is still harmful to the woman and her abuser.

Problem one with this so-called word of god: It ignores the lasting damage done by psychological abuse. Mental scars take longer to heal than physical damage. Even if a man taps a woman under his power lightly, the purpose is still to humiliate, control, and demean. It tells a woman, “I may not be really hurting you now, and you owe me gratitude for that. Just remember that if you really displease me I’ve got the right to put you in your place, you stupid cow.”

My second problem is the almost laughable conclusion that the daughter in the case was “too old” at the age of 23 to receive physical discipline from her father. Clearly her mother wasn’t too old, so the issue is that really the daughter should have had her own protector and maintainer husband to do the beatings himself.

This kind of story needs intense scrutiny in the news. It’s disturbing to see papers like The Guardian pulling the story “for legal reasons.” I expect more backbone from a British news source. Religion does not deserve immunity from criticism. Beliefs that are barbaric should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Islam is such a hot-button issue that many people instantly shy away from any legitimate criticism of the system, lest they be painted “Islamophobic.” As Fatima pointed out to me: “All religions have serious problems: violence, magical thinking, misogyny, superstition, or truth denial. Islam has all of the following. We need to stop lying to ourselves. When Islam is in the wrong, it is an imperative to say so.” I couldn’t agree more.

I’m glad the Koran burning was cancelled

Looks like Pastor Terry Jones finally came to his senses. The right to burn any book is and ought to be a protected right. Exercising that right, however, is tacky and juvenile because burning books is for psychotic totalitarian idiots, not civilised human beings. All I’m left with on this topic is:

  • Fifty slope-browed fundamentalists in Florida do not merit media attention.
  • If a book is potentially controversial or might promote dangerous ideologies, it is especially important that the book is kept so individuals can learn for themselves what parts of it are harmful. This will prevent repeating the mistakes of the past.
  • Even if you think the Koran is a deficient guide for society, destroying copies of it is not anything more than an ideological temper tantrum. Change your wet nappies and grow up.

World of Warcraft vs. Mormonism

Peggy Fletcher Stack, who always has something to say, included the following quote in a recent article:

“Mormonism is maturing into a robust world religion capable of sustaining a diversity of perspectives and viewpoints.”

Parts are true and untrue. I’d say Mormonism as a cultural movement is capable of handling diversity, but the LDS Church is rather more brittle. There will be considerable struggle between the two, and likely some degree of separation between them over time. More interesting to me is the claim that Mormonism is a robust world religion. Most people in the world know very little about Mormonism, and only about .2% of the global population can be claimed as “Mormon” to some degree, including baseball baptisms, lapsed members and closeted apostates. (If you factor in only active members, that percentage drops to .06%) Terms like “robust” are a matter of perspective, but I can’t help but think of LDS growth as rather anaemic when I compare it to a much younger community like World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft

  • Founded: 2004
  • Number of Members: 11.5 million+ paying subscribers
  • Number of active members: nearly 11.5 million
  • Hours per day per user: 3.5, or 25 hours per week (reference)

LDS Church

  • Founded: 1830
  • Number of Members: 13 million claimed
  • Number of active members: approx. 4 million (reference)
  • Hours per day per user: Varies. Depending on the calling, an active LDS member can spend as little as 5 hours per week (Sunday activity plus occasional midweek activity) or as many as 40+. An active LDS teenager will spend a comparable amount of time on church as a Warcraft user does on the game: 5 hours a week in seminary, 2 or three hours for a weekly youth activity, 3 hours for Sunday meetings, a few hours for Family Home Evening and family prayers, a few more hours for weekend activities and service projects, and a few more hours for personal scripture study and prayer.

I was not able to find direct stats from Blizzard Entertainment, but most sites I found analysing Warcraft usage estimate that 90% of Warcraft users play daily, and almost all of them play weekly. (If only Mormonism had that kind of activity rate.) This means that there are nearly ten million very active Warcraft players in the world. There are only around four million active Mormons. To put that in perspective, Mormonism has a global marketshare comparable to that of Puerto Rico and Lebanon. Countries like Ireland (4.5 million) and Denmark (5.5 million) have populations significantly larger than the LDS Church. With somewhere around four million actively participating members globally, Mormonism does not look robust compared to Christianity (2 billion+) or Islam (1 billion+). It’s just another subculture, one that has fewer active members than a single video game.

Christianity would have remained a subculture of Judaism had the Roman Empire not given it a marketshare boost by mandating it as the state religion. Islam would have been just another stone-worshipping folk faith had it not aggressively set out to create an empire. Hinduism, which has enjoyed some degree of state sponsorship, has done decently but never grew much beyond its own borders because it is not imperialistic in nature the way Christianity and Islam are. (source) Every religion that did not embrace imperialism and forced conversions has a very small marketshare. Nice religions finish last.

Size isn’t necessarily indicative of relevance or social impact. Jews outnumber Mormons almost five to one but are still a very tiny slice of the global population. However, the impact of Jewish people on every sphere of first world culture is immeasurable. The modern world would not be what it is without Jews. Mormons haven’t had many years to make similar contributions, and there is no cultural emphasis on scholarship and science the way there is in many schools of Jewish thought. All Mormons have invented so far are television parts and the department store. The only Mormon ever to win a Nobel Prize was an atheist. Jews, by contrast, are highly represented with Nobel honours. Politically, Mormons haven’t learned how to do much more than make a bloody great mess of things on social issues. They haven’t learned to participate in politics with a big-picture view of things that really matter, like AIDS, nuclear weapons, and the environment.

Mormons need more time to figure out exactly what they will be to the world. With the rise of the Internet the religion seems to be starting puberty, and what the religion ends up being may be drastically different from what started out as and what it is now. But I am sceptical that it will ever qualify as a “robust world religion.” I agree with Eliza Snitch’s prophecy that “small, persistent populations of Mormons will continue to exist throughout the world.” It won’t go away and will have its own way of shaping the world, but I don’t believe that Mormonism will ever be better known or understood than Zoroastrianism or Jainism.

The LDS Church is going to have to decide what it is going to do about the growing trend toward Mormon pluralism and the declining importance that the President of the Corporation of the President plays in dictating the will of God. The LDS Church will either adapt or it will shatter as the ground shifts beneath it. As Mormonism grows up, it will realise that it has a similar role to play in the world as a small European nation does. Or, for that matter, World of Warcraft. It’s going to have to be humble about that or it will lose friends and members. But no matter what the fate of the LDS Church, Mormonism in some sense will continue and survive.