But Mormons, I thought, should have special sympathy for Muslims on this:
~ Beginning with the horrible and sometimes violent persecution Mormons received in their early decades, we have always needed to combat bias and prejudice, often based on misunderstanding of who we really are and what we really stand for. Just like Muslims.
~ To this day, we often face opposition as we build hundreds of temples and meetinghouses all around the world. These buildings are not symbols of American imperialism or anything else nefarious--they're places for our members to gather, recreate, learn, and worship. Just like the proposed mosque.
~ Mormons must counter the fallacy that we are the same as our radical off-shoots. We hasten to assure the world that we are not polygamists, that our faith is not Warren Jeffs'. We don't want to be called to answer for the actions of extremist minorities who call themselves Mormons. Just as the Muslims building this mosque have little in common with those who drove planes into the Twin Towers.
So I started a Facebook group, "Mormons Who Support a Mosque Near Ground Zero." In its first day, eight of my friends and family members joined. Within 48 hours, I was called to be on the local news discussing the group and Mormons' support for the mosque. Yesterday the group reached 100 members and today it's almost doubled.*
So here's the thing: I am not the first to notice that Mormons and Muslims have some commonalities on this issue. See here and here, for examples. Some people are criticizing us for not standing up for Muslims' right to access the same religious freedom we defend for ourselves. And I've been sadly shocked to see how much ignorance and vitriol is displayed toward us in Internet chatter.
If you agree that "members of a religious group that has been persecuted almost to extinction [meaning Mormons] should stand up and speak out," I hope you'll consider joining the Facebook group and posting your support on twitter or your blog (or however you roll). Let the world know that Mormons work for goodwill, cooperation, freedom, and love across denominational lines.
*Update: As of 8/31, the count is up to 260.