Understanding and Loving Our Muslim Friends
By Gary and Joy Lundberg

Our first experience of actually meeting and getting to know the Muslims came with our mission assignment at the BYU World Family Policy Center (WFPC) last March to the United Nations at the Commission on the Status of Women meetings.  It’s a well-known fact that there are many U.N. delegates at these meeting who are seeking to destroy God-designed marriages and families.  Being there was disheartening and heartening at the same time.  The heartening part was discovering how dedicated the Muslim delegates are to preserving their families and their right to rearing their children with religious principles. 

When the meetings became charged with emotional fervor over these issues it was apparent that our great allies in this cause where the Muslim delegates.  We were especially impressed with the courage and dignity that Mustafa from Iran and Ilham from Sudan exhibited in holding firm to policies that would protect the family.  They were immovable on these issues and their stand had significant impact on the outcome.  We spoke with them on several occasions during these meetings regarding the serious need to protect the family, and at the conclusion wanted to rush to them and give them big Mormon hugs of gratitude for standing for the right.  We restrained ourselves and expressed enthusiastic, yet appropriate, appreciation for their valiant work.  They became our friends.

We were with them and a few other Muslims again at the World Family Policy Forum held at the J. Reuben Clark Law School in July.  This time we greeted each other as “old” friends.  One of the guest speakers at this forum was another Muslim, Sheikha Kouthar Cader, from Cape Town, South Africa.  WFPC director Richard Wilkins had heard her speak there at a Relief Society women’s conference, was impressed with her message and invited her share these thoughts at the Forum.  We were asked to see to the needs of Sheikha Cader and her husband Saeed at the three-day Forum, and then volunteered to host them in our home for a few days following, since they wanted to explore more of the United States.  That’s when we came to know these Muslims and their traditions on a very personal level.

When we heard her speech at the Forum we, too, were impressed.  Though we could not see her burka-covered face we could none-the-less feel her dedication to the family as she told of family life in Islam and the influence of dedicated Muslim men and women who live true to the teachings of the Quran.  We were quickly made aware of her warmth and humor as she stood there in her black Muslim attire declaring that she was neither a terrorist nor a ninja.  Then she made her subject clear when she said, “Family life is the basis of the Islamic society.  Its origin goes back to the beginning of the creation of man and woman-Adam and Eve.  So it is an institution founded by God’s will.  Allah says in the Holy Quran ‘Oh mankind, be mindful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created it’s mate and from the two created many men and women.’ ” (Surah 4 verse 1) It was thrilling to see the similarities of their doctrine with the Proclamation on the Family.

Another speaker, Father Frank Gelli from the Church of England paid high tribute to the Muslims when he spoke of his grave concern regarding the demise of the family.  He said “We need a miracle.”  Then he proclaimed that God had given the miracle. “This miracle,” he said, “is something about a presence in our midst.  A real presence.  A presence called Islam.”  Further he stated, “The commonalities of interests between Christianity and Islam seem to me sufficient to justify my belief in the necessity of an alliance between us. . . . In Islam, as in Christianity, the family is a divinely inspired and divinely ordained institution.”

We saw that Islamic institution in action the week following the forum as we spent personal time with Kouthar and Saeed Cader. By being with them in such close association we observed the true nature of these dear Muslims, and wished that all Muslims were like them in their dedication in doing right, much like we wish all Mormons were likewise dedicated to living the gospel fully.  The remainder of this report will help you know on a more personal level about Muslim traditions and faith.  We recognize that our experience is limited and that many who study and associate with those of the Islamic religion on a grander scale have much more to teach then we, but, for what it’s worth, here’s a synopsis of our cherished experience.

Personal Time

Kouthar and Saeed (they asked us to call them by her first names) are young, in their mid-thirties, have a nine-year-old son and she was seven months pregnant. They live in a less prosperous Muslim community in South Africa, and their funds were seriously limited.  They wanted to see more of the United States. We wondered what we could do that would respect their and our own financial restraints and still give them even just a small view of our beautiful country.  Since we live in Provo we decided on a trip to Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah and Grand Canyon in Arizona.  When they learned that we had a son living in Las Vegas and that it was only a few hours from the canyons, they said they would like to visit there and see if it’s like it looks on cable TV.

Our Muslim guests had already toured the Church sites with other dignitaries from around the world as part of the Forum activities.  We had been their companions on this venture as well. They were impressed by all that they saw and after visiting Welfare Square and the Humanitarian Center wondered why this wonderful program had not been revealed to the prophet Muhammad.  Saeed and Kouthar were easy to be with.  They have a fun sense of humor, and she often gives the thumbs up when she agrees with something.  Since they are young enough to be our children, she asked if they could call us Uncle Gary and Aunt Joy out of respect since we were older folks.  Hmmmm.  We had forgotten we were older folks.  It’s amazing how young we feel on this mission.

Friday, after some sightseeing, we took them to a Mosque in Salt Lake City for their prayer meeting, then to a halal restaurant. It had been several days since they had eaten meat and Saeed was hungry for meat.  Muslims don’t eat meat, except fish, unless it’s been killed in the halal way, which is for the animal to have its throat cut quickly to avoid as much pain as possible-and it must be supervised by an authorized Muslim who, at the slaughtering of each animal says “In the name of God.”  They don’t eat any form of pork.  Gary found a halal restaurant at 2020 State Street in SLC called Curry in a Hurry, operated by a family from India.  It was a tiny little restaurant, clean and the food was good.  Then we went home to relax and Kouthar and Saeed went straight to bed.  We went straight to more work preparing for the trip we would take with them the next morning. 

Saturday morning we fixed a German pancake (similar to a souffle) breakfast, which we used to fix often for our kids after our daughter learned it in high school.  It puffed up magnificently and Saeed and Kouthar loved it. (E-mail us for the recipe if you’d like)

We decided at the last minute that a few of our neighbors might enjoy meeting our new Muslim friends so we called some and they quickly dropped by, right along with a scout leader who was in BSA uniform collecting donations for our ward troop.  It all worked out well and ended up being good for our guests to meet them all.