I have been increasingly annoyed by the misinformation and accusations about Mormons in the media during the Romney campaign. The brief summaries inevitably do injustice, the history is constantly misrepresented, and what is important to Mormons always takes back seat to the obscure. I am particularly dismayed at the sins of our past that are constantly trotted out. At the same time, I have noticed that I am also dismayed by the way that Muslims are misrepresented in the media, and that this kind of prejudice far outweighs in both scope and frequency any discussion of Mormons. Through our relatively short history, Mormons and Muslims have been similarly compared and similarly misunderstood, maligned, and taken as symbols for what is violent, secretive, oppressive to women, and politically dangerous.
Unfortunately, Romney has not helped this situation, choosing to rely on stereotypes and fear with regard to Muslims. When former moderate Iranian president Mohammed Khatami visited Harvard last year, Romney called him a “terrorist” and refused to use Massachusetts State Police to provide an escort. Romney has similarly painted the rest of the Islamic world and many Islamic countries in this kind of extremist language.
To a certain extent, I do not blame Romney, who is running for President in a time of Islamophobia, a powerful political tool. At the same time, I am dissappointed that he has not taken greater efforts to be more careful and deliberate about the way that he speaks about Islam. Instead of stoking people’s fears and prejudices about American Muslims, he could take this opportunity to become an ally to those whose religions are feared, oppressed, and maligned in the media.
Similarly, I wish that the Church would make public statements in support of Islamic groups and communities who are unfairly targeted, persecuted, or maligned. It seems that if we spoke out against this kind of behavior that others would speak out on our behalf as well.