Monday, March 7, 2011

Brotherly Love

Missouri Mormons Open Their Church To Muslim Neighbors
Reported by Dan Rascon for the online Meridian Magazine
Wednesday, March 02 2011

Exactly 7:45 in the evening and the call for 8 o'clock prayer, is heard in a mosque 1300 miles east of Salt Lake City in St. Louis, Missouri. One by one fellow worshippers arrive. They stand side by side, touching shoulders, wall to wall.

They are Muslims, and according to their faith, Islam, they are supposed to pray 5 times a day.

"We are praying to God," said Mufti Minhajuddin, the Muslim leader in St. Louis. "We stand up and we praise him and then we bow down and praise him as well ."

Their holy book is called the Quran which contains 6,600 verses of what Muslims believe to be direct revelation from god to their prophet Mohammed.

"We believe in the prophets of God, that God created this world and sent down the prophets throughout the ages who were inspired with revelation and taught mankind what is the meaning of our existence," said Minhajuddin.

One o'clock in the afternoon the next day, and the same call for prayer is heard, but it's not coming from a mosque. Oddly enough, it's coming from an LDS church building in St. Charles, Missouri, about 25 minutes west of St. Louis.

And they are not Latter-day saints coming inside the gym to worship. They are Muslims. 15 to 30 of them come here every Friday to call upon god in prayer.

"Friday prayer is very important for us afternoon, just like {Christians} gather on Sundays," said Magbool Khan, the Muslim leader in St. Charles, "'s very important that Muslims gather on Friday and pray."

This all came about because of LDS member Deborah Coffey who works with other faiths as part of the Interfaith Counsel in St. Charles.

"I didn't see it as unusual, I didn't see it as uncomfortable," said Coffey.

Several years ago the Muslim leaders came to the Interfaith Counsel in St. Charles asking for a place to worship on Friday's.

So Deborah went to her stake president Terry Slezak.

"When it was first brought to my attention that there was an opportunity I didn't hesitate," said Slezak. "Their desire was to have a place to gather to pray to God, and to me it's like if we were in a place where the church was not strong enough and we didn't have a building and we wanted to pray to God I would hope that someone would reach out to us."

"I actually took it as an honor that they would feel comfortable coming to us," said Coffey.

St. Louis is a fascinating city. It sits on the edge of the Mississippi river, the dividing line to the state of Illinois. It's best known for its 630 foot architectural wonder called the Gateway Arch. The metropolitan area is home to about 75 thousand Muslims and 14 thousand Mormons.

The Muslims in St. Charles, are hoping to one day build a mosque on a piece of land a short distance away from the LDS church where they currently worship in order to keep up with the growth.

No date has been set for the construction of the mosque in St. Charles. At this time they are still in the process of purchasing the land, so it could be a while before anything is built.

The LDS church says there is no time limit for the Muslims to worship at their building.

Before the arrangement the only place they had to go to in St. Charles was the home of Nadeem Farooqui, a nice home but too small for worship on Fridays.

"This is actually my living room," said Farooqui. "It's not big enough to serve the whole community."

So they grab their carpets out of a closet and roll them out inside the LDS church's gym, take off their shoes, and begin their 30 minute worship service.

For Mormons the gym is usually a place for social activities like basketball. But it's the plainness of the gym that the Muslims prefer. There are no benches or podiums or images of Jesus Christ like in some of the other rooms.

There have been a few occasions when the gym is being used by the LDS congregation. So the Muslims go to the primary room. But inside the primary room there are images of Christ - so they cover them up and go about their service.

Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was a great prophet but not the son of god like Christians do. But who believes what is no matter to the two faiths, at least in St. Charles

"We don't have a need to proselyte they don't have a need to proselyte. It's not a missionary tool at all, it's strictly a friendshiping tool, building that friendship," said Coffey.

"Quran teach you all good things just like a Bible. Quran don't teach you to go hurt any another person or anything like that," said Khan.

And so the Muslims continue to go, week after week, praising god, and thanking him for this place of worship.

"They are very good, they're very nice people, very polite, very cooperative. Very nice peoples," said Mir Asif, a Muslim worshipper.

"It was a blessing for us that we have a bigger place, said Khan. "God bless Mormon church they opened the door for us and we are very pleased, very happy and god will give them a reward."

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