Letter to the Editor: To whom it may concern

To Whom It May Concern:

I’d like to respond to the recent letter to the editor published on September 9th in The Signpost, entitled: “How many Muslims does it take to change a lightbulb?” In doing so, I’d like to quote a bit from the letter and express my disagreements with it. I request that those reading my criticisms here begin by reading the original letter in its entirety, as I am only quoting selections.

It seems apparent to me from the language and terminology used that Mr. Jarvis, the author of the aforementioned letter, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I fully recognize that my assumption may be incorrect, and if so, I apologize. As a fellow member of the LDS Church, I’d like to respond with a different perspective.

Mr. Jarvis begins by making reference to the current religious persecution of Christians in Egypt, stating that “Such religious intolerance and persecution, for material gain, is reminiscent of the Catholic Inquisition, the reign of the Third Reich and early Mormon forced migration and extermination order; and is at the root of Muslim hostility towards Israel.”

He’s a little bit correct, in that the Inquisition, Holocaust, and Mormon and Egyptian persecutions are all religiously-based forms of bigotry. He’s wildly wrong in terms of the vastly different political and religious influences that brought about each of these horrific events in our history. Further, casually lumping all of these together as if they are identical is disrespectful to the thousands and millions who suffered from each. World War II, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust has become deeply ingrained in American culture as a having clear paths of distinction between right and wrong. As a result, it has become a cultural norm to justify one’s political stance by drawing connections between the opponent and Adolf Hitler. I believe that the moral choices during that era were not so clearly and easily defined in the midst of those troubles. Further, I believe that to claim those difficulties were easily morally divided gravely undercuts the bravery and moral courage of those who made them.

The author also claims: “A valid religion reflects the peace and love of God through its believers. Islam cannot reflect God’s peace and love because of its governmental nature and the many Islamic factions that function as political parties…”

My first thought is that in reading this article, I did not feel any of “the peace and love of God” reflected toward me, but rather hatred and fear. My hope is that we as Latter-Day Saints would turn our critical eye inwards and try to make ourselves better vessels of God’s love and peace, rather than casting a general stone of judgment on 1.6 billion of God’s children, the vast majority of whom we have never and will never meet.

Personally, I will never forget the long day I spent knocking on doors as an LDS missionary in Morgantown, West Virginia, being cursed at and reviled by by fellow Christians. That day, however, we were lovingly invited into a home by a beautiful Muslim family. They did not extend that invitation because they were interested in our message. They welcomed us because it was the last day of Ramadan, and Muslim tradition indicated that all guests were to be welcomed and invited to share in the feast. That day, I felt the love of God extended to me through a Muslim man.

As far as religious factions functioning as political parties, it is fairly common knowledge that by and large, Latter-Day Saints vote in a block, and have throughout their entire history. In fact, it was this very tendency that was the primary motivation for expelling the Mormons from Missouri: Mormons tended to vote against slavery, of which Missouri, as a slave state, was not exactly fond. The very same Mormon political activism is under intense scrutiny today in the aftermath of Proposition 8 in California.

My final quote: “When Islam is practiced as a religion, Muslims will quit using torture, suicide, murder, and mayhem as tools for change or for maintaining the status quo or to get gain.” Have we forgotten that our very own United States of America has used torture, murder, and mayhem as tools for change or maintaining the status quo in our military action in the Middle East over the last decade? How can we justify it for ourselves and condemn it in others?

It is my firm belief that condemnation and cursing of those who are different than ourselves will never lead to peace. The only way to better the world around us is to become better ourselves.

-Matthew Richards