MUSLIM-MORMON ALLIANCE: Muslims and mormons "to create new books", not destroying them
Mormons, Muslims get along by creating books, not destroying them
The threat by Pastor Terry Jones to burn the Qur'an was all over the news. What if, instead of destroying Muslim books, we were actually to create them, by translating the classic works of the Islamic golden age into English?
That is the project Dan Peterson, a professor of Arabic at Brigham Young University has been engaged in for more than a decade, a project that has built tremendous goodwill and resulted in many lasting friendships between Muslims and those of the Mormon faith.
This past Sunday evening, Peterson was in town as part of a BYU humanities outreach to give a lecture at the Mormon Church in Naperville on BYU's Islamic Translation Series. Several hundred people were in attendance, including several dozen Muslim dignataries and guests. Peterson recalled that when he was first appointed as a professor and began to teach a course in Islamic philosophy, he was chagrined by the lack of classic Islamic texts available in English translation. You can walk into any Borders or Barnes and Noble and find multiple translations of the great thinkers of Greece and Rome, but not so for Islam.
Some time later he was approached by Elder Alexander Morrison, a General Authority (central church leader) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sponsoring institution of BYU. Elder Morrison wanted to discuss with Peterson ways in which BYU could reach out to the Muslim world in a gesture of friendship and respect.
Peterson came to that meeting prepared with a list of ideas, but the one that Morrison (a former academic himself) quickly seized upon was that for a translation series of classic Islamic texts. This idea was particularly appealing to Morrison because it would not entail us talking about Islam, but rather would let the great thinkers of the Islamic golden age speak for themselves--all we would be doing would be making their words available in English for those who could not read Arabic (including, as it turned out, many diaspora Muslims).