The two-day event, titled “Mormonism and Islam,” featured speakers both locally relevant and nationally renowned, including Stephen Prothero of Boston University.
Prothero, the keynote speaker on day two of the conference, made it a point to emphasize the theological disparities between the two religions, as well as their similarities as faiths “outside the mainstream.”
“Differences aren’t inconsequential. They’re foundational,” Prothero said.
He said that because Mormons and Muslims have similar experiences with national persecution and misconception, the two faiths should support one another. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to Prothero, should take the lead due to its slightly better standing in the national eye.
“Islam,” Prothero said, “has not received the legitimization Mormonism has enjoyed.”
Prothero went on to cite the national representation of the LDS Church. Four Congressmen are Mormons, constituting three percent of the representative body. With Mormons making up only two percent of the nation’s total population, Prothero declared Mormons as “over-represented in the U.S. Congress.”
With such a healthy representative showing, Prothero challenged Mormons to step up to support Muslims who currently suffer stereotypes and persecutions with which the LDS Church can empathize.
“Mormon Republican people in power are more Republican than they are Mormon,” Prothero said. “If they thought more as Mormons, they would do the right thing.”
Such a united stand, Prothero said, would smooth over seemingly blasphemous differences between the two religions.
The campus’ LDS Institute of Religion had a room set aside to be used solely for attending Muslims who might wish to conduct their mid-day prayers.
The action supported the delivered messages of the conference. Charles Randall Paul of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy quoted scriptures from both faiths to point out the parallels and differences that can be used to draw them closer together instead of further apart.
“We have in our time the God-like ability to listen to more voices than ever before,” Paul said.
As a final rebuttal to those who would take issue with others not of their faith, Paul cited a passage from the Bible, recounting when Jesus directly conversed with and suffered temptations from the devil.
“If God can have a dialogue with the devil, I can certainly talk with a non-believer,” Paul said.
Najeeba Syeed-Miller, an assistant professor on campus and practicing Muslim, criticized the practice of “inheriting prejudices.”
“[Unwillingness to communicate] is the most verdant threat to interreligious encounters,” Syeed-Miller said.
The two-day conference was held at Centre Stage in the Student Center. The room was often filled to capacity, with both students and professors coming and going between speakers.