Are there similarities between Muslim and Mormon persecution?

Sen. Hatch said something yesterday regarding the Fort Hood massacre that I think is very reasonable:

I don’t think all Islamic people in this country should be tarred by the fact that one guy goes off the rails.  I think we ought to be fair.  There are many wonderful Islamic people in this country.  One of the best is my old friend Muhammad Ali.  He’s a great, great person.  You can’t put everybody in that category because one guy goes nuts.

I thank Sen. Hatch for this sane, uplifting comment.  But I do think he is missing the point in some ways.

It is worth pointing out that, because of our Mormon heritage, Hatch understands that it is easy to paint people with a broad brush.  Mormons have certainly suffered from that ever since the New York, Ohio and Missouri days.  We still suffer from it today:  look how we are being blamed for the same-sex marriage vote in Maine even though the Church made no special efforts in Maine and we have relatively few members there.  It is also worth remembering that there was something of a “religious test” in the 2008 elections among Republican primary voters, especially the supporters of the bigot Mike Huckabee.

It is interesting to note, however, that hate crimes against Muslims are not a huge problem in the U.S., which is pretty remarkable given the conflicts with the Muslim world going all the way back to the 1970s.  Take a look at this chart here, which basically shows that there are signficantly more anti-Jewish than anti-Muslim hate crimes and that anti-Muslim hate crimes have been pretty low since 2001.

So, on the one hand, Sen. Hatch’s point is extremely valid.  On the other, there does not seem to be a huge trend of persecuting Muslims for the actions of one wacko.  The U.S. has suffered from other terrorist attacks by Muslims, seemingly isolated events, since 9/11.  Remember the DC sniper?  Remember the guy who attacked the El Al counter at the LA airport?  Remember the shoe bomber (I think of him every time I have to take off my shoes when I travel)?

Persecuting Muslims in any way for the actions of individuals is wrong.  But what if Hasan really was getting orders from Yemeni handlers? One of his former imam’s has praised Hasan’s actions.  There is evidence that Hasan was trying to contact al Qaeda and that U.S. intelligence knew about it.   Hasan told a room of army doctors that Muslims loved death more than life.  So, apparently there were a lot of warning signs that were ignored.  Were they ignored because people didn’t want to persecute a Muslim?

It is possible that these warning signs were ignored because we are too concerned about not being bigoted?

The Mormon and Muslim analogy can be taken too far.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not shooting up army camps or airline counters, or trying to set off shoes bombs or randomly targeting people on DC freeways.

So, let’s be clear:  blaming one guy’s religion for one guy’s actions is completely wrong.  Peaceful Buddhist monks should not be blamed if one Buddhist goes postal.  But if we are bending over backwards to protect and apologize for a religion’s most radical members — and therefore causing deaths that could have been prevented — are we doing a greater evil?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

32 thoughts on “Are there similarities between Muslim and Mormon persecution?

  1. About 90% of the Muslims to whom I offer a Book of Mormon (or other church material) in their language accept it. All my encounters with them have been pleasant and polite.

    But you do make a good point about the radicals. Pamela Geller explains the “SoA(SWT)” acronym in Hasan’s business card that should have been a clue:

    She also points out that Hasan shaved his head for his attack, which also has meaning.

    The Washington Post points out another sign he gave during a slide show presentation a couple years ago that should have caught people’s eye:

  2. I think this WSJ article makes my point pretty well:

    “To those not terrorized by fear of offending Muslim sensitivities, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s motive was instantly clear: It was an act of terrorism by a man with a record of expressing virulent, anti-American, pro-jihadist sentiments. All were conspicuous signs of danger his Army superiors chose to ignore.

    What is hard to ignore, now, is the growing derangement on all matters involving terrorism and Muslim sensitivities. Its chief symptoms: a palpitating fear of discomfiting facts and a willingness to discard those facts and embrace the richest possible variety of ludicrous theories as to the motives behind an act of Islamic terrorism. All this we have seen before but never in such naked form. The days following the Fort Hood rampage have told us more than we want to know, perhaps, about the depth and reach of this epidemic.”

  3. So, Muslims might deserve it? I hear and see hateful comments by my students (mostly Mormons) about Muslims that are far worse than anything Huckabee has ever said about Mormons. Not sure if Huckabee has ever recommended rounding up and killing all Mormons or bombing everyone to death in Utah.

    I guess ths is why I still think Hatch is a decent man.

  4. Chris H, are you saying my post says Muslims might deserve it (whatever “it” is) or are you saying that your Mormon students are bigots? I can’t be responsible for things your Mormon students say, but I can be responsible for this post. And if you are saying that my post says “Muslims might deserve it,” where exactly do I say that and what do I say Muslims might deserve?

  5. “The Mormon and Muslim analogy can be taken too far. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not shooting up army camps or airline counters, or trying to set off shoes bombs or randomly targeting people on DC freeways.”

    You are hinting at it and you know it. “It” is persecution. My students are not all bigots, but there are no shortage of them.

    Okay, what you are actually arguing for is more profiling and scrutiny. While Muslim persecution on an official level might not be all that bad (debatable), on the playground and in the parking lot it is.

    I look forward to the day when too much tolerance becomes a problem. We are not even close.

  6. Chris H, you are reading things into my post that are not there. I say several times that I’m against persecuting anybody, but you choose to ignore those to create your own fantasies. You may want to stop and think a second about the feelings of the families of the people who were killed or wounded by Hasan.

    I am actually not sure of all of the things that need to be done. I am not an expert on this issue. And I think it’s perhaps too early to know what exactly should be done, which is why it’s a good thing people like Sen. Lieberman want to look into the matter. If a politically correct culture inside the US Army is preventing people from rooting out evil Muslims or Buddhists or Mormons who want to kill people, then that should be changed. How it should be changed I have no idea, but I favor the concept that we need to be open to the fact that we may be overly tolerant in a way that gets people killed.

  7. David Brooks also addresses this issue today:

    “So immediately the coverage took on a certain cast. The possibility of Islamic extremism was immediately played down. This was an isolated personal breakdown, not an ideological assault, many people emphasized.

    Major Hasan was portrayed as a disturbed individual who was under a lot of stress. We learned about pre-traumatic stress syndrome, and secondary stress disorder, which one gets from hearing about other people’s stress. We heard the theory (unlikely in retrospect) that Hasan was so traumatized by the thought of going into a combat zone that he decided to take a gun and create one of his own.

    A shroud of political correctness settled over the conversation. Hasan was portrayed as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness.

    There was a national rush to therapy. Hasan was a loner who had trouble finding a wife and socializing with his neighbors.

    This response was understandable. It’s important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts. If public commentary wasn’t carefully policed, the assumption seemed to be, then the great mass of unwashed yahoos in Middle America would go off on a racist rampage.”

  8. Great post Geoff. You are right, Hasan’s superiors should have stopped him before this tragedy occurred. I think there is another angle to this scenario. Hasan was a psychiatrist. As one grieving family member pointed out. Their child was an expert solider; it was unbelievable their child had been killed by a psychiatrist. I think his rank of Major was also gave him credibility. Husan was not some inexperienced Private, but a Major.

  9. The number of reported hate crimes committed against any one group, of course, is not an accurate barometer of sentiment towards any one group. If it is, then anti-Mormonism all but ceases to exist in any real sense, given the strikingly low number of anti-Mormon hate crimes in any given year.

    Like Chris H., I read into your post the not-so-thinly-veiled suggestion that Muslims deserve to be persecuted. I’ll take you at your word that such was not your intention, but I wonder if Chris H. and I are defining “persecution” differently than you. You do seem to suggest that increased racial and religious profiling of those from Islamic backgrounds (at least within the military) might lead to a decrease in the sort of tragedies that occurred at Ft. Hood (and your linking to Michelle Malkin’s blog certainly supports such a reading of your post). I would include increased racial and religious profiling as persecution. Perhaps you don’t, and that explains the disconnect between my own reading of your post and your stated position in comments 4 and 6?

  10. There are differences which make the comparison a little unworkable. In the first instance, the persecution of the Church in the 1830s and 1840s (and really throughout the 1800s generally) was far more violent and systematic than anything suffered by the muslim community today. As Geoff notes, there is very little violence being perpetrated, and no one is being driven from state to state and out of the country by angry mobs. The persecution being experienced by muslims are whispers, distrust, inconvenience, etc.

    Even if we compare the relatively mild persecution members of the church face today, it seems the muslims get the better end of it. Has the muslim community faced the same kind of backlash the church got for Prop 8? I haven’t seen it if they have.

    Why the difference? I am reminded of the scene in Star Wars were C3PO asks Han Solo why they should worry about upsetting Chewbacca over a game of chess. “Because droids aren’t known to rip people’s arms off when they lose.” There is plenty of evidence that Hollywood and others purposely avoid doing anything that might be offensive to muslims for fear of violent retribution. Even if only 1% of the overall muslim community would potentially take action, that 1% has proven quite willing. Is it fair to the other 99% of muslims? No. Is it fair that 1% of a particular religious group has the power, through terror, to control the public discourse in this way? No.

    In effect, many of us tend to think that individuals shouldn’t be disadvantaged because other members of their group are “bad” in one way or another. There is merit to that thought, but it is problematic to implement in the real world. It appears now that society as a whole can’t just blindly assume that American-born muslim military officers won’t carry out what appears to be a religiously motivated attack.

  11. There are differences which make the comparison a little unworkable. In the first instance, the persecution of the Church in the 1830s and 1840s (and really throughout the 1800s generally) was far more violent and systematic than anything suffered by the muslim community today.

    And your comparison, in turn, is a little unworkable, too. If you want to consider 19th century anti-Mormonism, why not consider 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th century attacks against Islam and its adherents? Their collective experience was far worse that an exterminating order.

  12. Hasan was a murdering Radical Muslim, just like those on 9-11. This statement by Hatch is another evidence of why he should be voted out of office, what an idiot.

    Vote them out in 2010, all of them. The Republic is down with a gun to its head. We need to stop the congress now, before they pull the trigger.

    Wake up People!!!

  13. Christopher, I think you make a good point that hate crimes are certainly not the only barometer, but it is one barometer. I am open to others that may show Muslims feel more persecuted (based on real acts) than other groups. That would make for an interesting comparison.

    Wow, Christopher, I really don’t see where in my post or comments I am saying that Muslims deserve to be persecuted. Again, you are projecting your own biases onto this post in ways that are really not fair. Granted, I understand that any link to anything by Michelle Malkin turns lefties cross-eyed, but it was the easiest way to get that particular graph onto this post. Believe it or not, I tried to cut and paste it, but my lack of technical skills resulted in the link. FWIW, I don’t like Malkin and think she IS in favor of Muslim persecution in ways that I am not. So, if that is the source of your animus, then mea culpa, but please look at what I actually wrote, rather than making assumptions.

    As I say, I don’t know what the solution is, but I hope we can agree that bending over backwards and ignoring warnings because of somebody’s religion is also worrisome.

  14. Chris H and Christopher- I don’t think Geoff’s post is “thinly disguised racism”. Recognizing someone is a dangerous nut is good common sense. An example of racism would be, if the US rounded up all the Muslims and put them into concentration camps like was done to the Japanese in WWII.

  15. Christopher, regarding your #11, there is no doubt that Muslims have suffered from violence. The back and forth of jihad and Muslim expansion — vs. response to that expansion — is a complex issue, as I’m sure you know.

    I think the relevant issue for this post is, “how are Muslims treated in American society today?”
    I think a case could be made that they have suffered some persecution. In that sense, the Muslim experience and the Mormon experience inside the U.S. are actually pretty similar, thus Hatch’s comment, which I praised.

    The bigger issue is, how do you deal with people who, because or their religion, have gone over the edge into violence. And I really don’t know, but however we are dealing with it today, it was not enough to prevent the Fort Hood tragedy.

  16. Geoff, like I said, I’m willing to take you at your word here. What seemed to me to suggest that you were at least suggesting persecution of Muslims might in fact be justified was this statement and question:

    So, apparently there were a lot of warning signs that were ignored. Were they ignored because people didn’t want to persecute a Muslim?

    The implication one could read into that question is that if people were not afraid of persecuting Muslims, then the warning sings would not have been ignored and Hasan would never have committed the tragic crime. If that was not your intent, fine. I’ll take your word for it.

    I’m quite relieved to hear you don’t like Malkin, and was surprised to see you link to here hate-filled blog.

    An example of racism would be, if the US rounded up all the Muslims and put them into concentration camps like was done to the Japanese in WWII.

    Which, of course, what Michelle Malkin has advocated. Ugh.

  17. I think a case could be made that they have suffered some persecution. In that sense, the Muslim experience and the Mormon experience inside the U.S. are actually pretty similar, thus Hatch’s comment, which I praised.

    I think the Muslim and Mormon experience in the U.S. today are actually not very similar at all, except in a very basic way (which I read Hatch as saying. His point stands in that respect. But using the one measure of anti-sentiment already discussed–violence and hate crimes–the comparative Mormon and Muslim experiences are not even close. There were, according to the chart linked to in the post, 156 hate crimes directed towards Muslims in 2006. How many hate crimes were committed against Mormons that year in the U.S.? 3? Maybe 4? The number of hate crimes against Mormons certainly rises in 2008 and 2009 following the Prop 8 fiasco, but even then, actual hate-crimes against Mormons probably doesn’t top 20 for either year.

    Another measurement of anti-sentiment would be refusal to patronize stores and businesses owned and operated by a member of that particular group. There was a moderate outcry (even on this blog, if I remember correctly) against gay activists boycotting Mormon-owned and/or operated restaurants and theaters following the passage of Prop 8 that labeled such actions “persecution.” Do a quick google search of “boycott Muslim business” and browse the 250,000+ hits that come up. There are entire websites devoted to the cause. We could also look at anti-Muslim and anti-Mormon publications, both print and electronic. While we all know that anti-Mormon literature exists and thrives in certain locales, it pales in comparison to the anti-Islam literature available (and remember, such literature has been passed out at public schools by teachers and other school representatives as recently as 2007). When you actually get into the details of a comparative approach, you’ll find Muslims have it far worse than Mormons today.

  18. The bigger issue is, how do you deal with people who, because or their religion, have gone over the edge into violence. And I really don’t know, but however we are dealing with it today, it was not enough to prevent the Fort Hood tragedy.

    Right. There are some obvious difficulties here. For one, Islam is in many ways (officially, popular imagination, etc.) tied to middle-eastern racialization. There are many Muslims who are not middle eastern, and there are many middle easterners in the U.S. who are not Muslim (either being non-practicing folks from Islamic backgrounds and upbringings or conversely adhering to a wide range of other faiths and systems of belief). But the perhaps even greater difficulty here (and this is where Muslim comparisons to Mormons really falter) is that Islam has no unifying, central authoritative body. Rather, it is a diverse collection of traditions that all claim allegiance to a written text (the Qu’ran). Whereas Mormons were easy to target in the aftermath of Prop 8 because church leaders representing the institutional LDS church advocated the grassroots activism against SSM, there is no comparable body of leaders that speak for Islam. That at the very least needs to be understood before any suggestions that Muslims received increased scrutiny in order to prevent future acts of violence.

  19. Christopher, I still feel you make good points, but I would like to address your #16 to help bring some mutual understanding.

    There is a big gap between “don’t bend over backwards NOT to persecute” (postion 1) a people and “persecute” a people (position 3). And in the middle of that gap is the broad space called “treat everybody the same.” (position 2). You and Chris H were making that big jump without, in my opinion, any real reason except your own assumptions (and perhaps a visceral reaction to Michelle Malkin, for which I don’t really blame you).

    So, to reiterate my point, it is POSSIBLE (far from certain) that, based on the evidence, the Fort Hood tragedy may have been caused by people bending over backwards not to persecute a Muslim because of political correctness. If that is the case, and it is part of the Army culture, it needs to change immediately. Again, we don’t know if that’s true yet, and it may very well be proven that it is not true. In which case, nothing much to worry about. So, the Army would move from position 1 to the broad space in the middle, position 2. This does not mean at all that position 3 would be acceptable to me or even to most Americans.

  20. Chris H. #17 You are twisting my words. I did not say “standard” instead an “example”. What happened in the 1940’s to the Japanese would not happen today. As far as the government goes; no, I do not feel that it is racist. Is there racism in individuals in the US and working within for the government? Yes, of course. It is impossible to change what is in people’s hearts. All we can do is have laws to protect the rights of all.

  21. If you are suggesting that we shouldn’t give Muslims special treatment just because they’re Muslim, then that’s a great statement. Everyone should be treated equally. Anyone who makes violent threats should be dealt with, no matter what they’re background.

    If you are suggesting that we are justified in treating Muslims differently because they’re Muslim, then that is a racist statement. It doesn’t matter what other Muslims have done – there have been many violent crimes done by professed Mormons, we just don’t talk about them as much. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but frankly in some points it does sound like you are suggesting that.

    Some have suggested that you can’t compare Mormons and Muslims because what Mormons have experienced in the past is so much less than what Muslims have experienced. This may be true in the US, but it is not true worldwide. The reason why so many Middle Eastern people hate our country so much is because of the meddling we have done in their countries. That doesn’t mean it’s right to retaliate, but if you’re going to compare at least compare apples to apples.

    It doesn’t matter what Muslims have done, or how many of them have participated. Even if 99% of them were violent jihadists, it would still be morally wrong to discriminate against them just because they’re Muslim. Of course that is hard to do, and we’ll probably never get it perfect, but it is still the right way to treat people.

  22. Katie, please re-read comment #21. Could you please tell me where I say we should treat Muslims differently because they are Muslim?

  23. Personally I am of the view that a stifling version of military PC is the reason why this guy was not stopped. See the video of Gen Casey for an illustration. Who wants to be the officer who puts his career on the line? The investigation of all this is going to be really damning to anybody who had direct knowledge of this guy.

    Christopher. My view of the history of Islam is that Islam is as aggressive militarily and culturally historically as Christianity. Ask a Eygyption Copt for more details. Or ask Greeks about the Ottomans. There is two sides to the equation.

    Lets not forget that the marines fought there first engagements agains Islamic pirate states who were raiding Europe for slaves and plunder.

  24. bbell. Of course there’s tow sides to the equation in the history of Islam. There, of course, is two sides to the story of 19th century anti-Mormonism, too. But that doesn’t justify or excuse prejudice, discriminatory, and violent actions aimed at either group. What exactly is your point?

  25. JA,

    My point is that your “example” is a pretty extreme one. There are plenty of forms of racism (both legal and cultural) that do not reach that point but are still immoral.

  26. A Muslim authored an op-ed (which I can’t find at the moment) in the Yale Daily News a few days after the September 11 attacks, observing that he would gladly have accepted the inconvenience of being scrutinized closer at airports if such measures would have caught the hijackers.

    If the United States were fighting a war with my birthplace of South Korea; or if Mormons had flown hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a Mormon group in Buffalo had been convicted of planning and training for terrorism (the Lackawanna Six), a Mormon engineer in Northern California had been found guilty of same (Mike Hawash), a Mormon had killed two at the El Al ticket counter at LAX (Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet), and a Mormon officer had just killed and wounded dozens of fellow soldiers at an army base; I’d expect *and welcome* greater scrutiny when boarding a plane, or employed by the government, *even if I had nothing to do with any of this*.

    Whatever happened to being willing to sacrifice, to endure the occasional inconvenience, for others’ benefit?

  27. In a similar vein to Yeechang, if I were a Muslim and was facing increased scrutiny from my neighbors because of the acts of some of my co-religionists, how better to prove that I’m not a threat than to voluntarily subject myself to additional scrutiny? When people complain that their rights are being violated if they are asked some additional questions or have their bag searched, I wonder what they have to hide.

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