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Be careful choosing your friends

Here's an interesting dilemma (at least in the way it is portrayed by Britain's liberal Guardian newspaper): BYU's World Family Policy Center, in an effort to build an international coalition of "pro-family" organisations and governments, has made some unsavoury friends.

Chief among them are Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a controversial Islamic scholar who apparently "approves of wife-beating" and believes that it is a religious duty for Iraqis to "resist the invaders", and Mahathir Mohamad, the dictatorial former prime minister of Malaysia who sacked and jailed his deputy for alleged homosexuality. In the words of the Guardian, "the United States (read: wacky Christians) now sits in the religious camp alongside the Islamic regimes: not so much a clash of civilisations, more an alliance of fundamentalisms."

I'm not sure what to make of this. Whilst one can certainly team-up with an otherwise dodgy character if it will serve some common good, should BYU be more circumspect in the friends it chooses? Admittedly, this is an issue that needs more information than a Guardian article can provide. I shall endeavour to get the World Family Policy Center angle.

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Anonymous said ... (January 25, 2005 11:07 PM) 

Ronan, this is a can of worms. Go read the post and comments by Dan Burk over at T&S on this alliance.

I am surprised that the Guardian is writing about this at all. It is interesting that Latter-day Saints are important enough (a threat?) in someone's eyes at the Guardian to warrant such treatment. 

Posted by john fowles


Anonymous said ... (January 25, 2005 11:17 PM) 

Or you can just go straight to my insightful comment on that thread. 

Posted by john fowles


Anonymous said ... (January 25, 2005 11:53 PM) 

Yeah, their "pro-family" allies occasionally make it impossible for them to speak out against such family-friendly practices as female genital cutting. I got a really condescending and vacuous letter from them when I asked why they were defending parents' rights over and against the right of girls to be free of such horror. "It's complicated--you don't understand the politics" was the upshot of their response. Ick. 

Posted by Kristine


Anonymous said ... (January 26, 2005 8:17 AM) 

Thanks for that John. It seems that Mormons are hot property in the UK press right now for two reasons:

1. We offer a metaphor for hyper-Republicanism (boo! hiss!)
2. Our polygamous past makes our "traditional family" model sound so deliciously ironic

Like you Kristine, I'm a little troubled about these alliances but to be honest I have yet to explore the BYU position here, so I will withold judgment (for now). It's a tough one, no? I mean, whereas I believe the US prosecuted an extremely dodgy war in Iraq, do I think the church should not work with the US government? OK, as if that would ever happen anyway, and perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges, but do you see the problem: there are no purely righteous governments. Should the church never work with anyone, then?

John, is your defense of BYU here instinctive (stemming from your noble desire to head-off the BYU-bashing that seems to happen too often)? Your comments here and at T&S did not really address the issue: should BYU work with these fundamentalist Muslims?

Of course, BYU/the Church can't win. If we were to shun Muslims the liberal press would accuse us of being anti-Islamic; when we embrace them, they wave all those nasty human rights issues in our face. 

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous said ... (January 26, 2005 11:02 AM) 

I'm intriged and prepared to be appalled. Kristine, would you have any problems posting your actual exchange with...who was it with? If not, perhaps you could email it to me (

I am a bit predisposed to believe that the Y has become too cozy with the Islamofascists as I've heard too many BYU Area Studies students make overwrought protestations about the closeness of our religion and theirs.

Not one of these people, that I have spoken to, has actually made a serious study out of the Koran. 

Posted by Stuart


Anonymous said ... (January 26, 2005 9:56 PM) 


What specifically would you refer someone to from the Qur'an to refute closeness and similarities between the two religions? Certainly the Qur'an states that Jesus is not the son of God, and some other major doctrinal differances, but that is to be expected since we believe they don't have the fulness of the gospel. I personally see a lot of closeness in practice and belief, just as I do with Jews. We're about as close to Muslims as we are to Jews.

I majored in International Relations with an emphasis in NES and minored in Arabic at BYU. My husband and I have spent a year and a half in the Middle East. I've read a lot of the Qur'an. We have a number of Muslim friends from a variety of countries. I have never felt uncomfortable with the differences; I have usually only seen similarities. 

Posted by Amira


Anonymous said ... (January 27, 2005 1:27 AM) 

Maybe Stuart is referring to passages that seem to authorize killing "infidels" or those who associate with them. Whatever the real meaning of these passages, it is these that provide Islamofascists, as Stuart called them, with much of their doctrinal ammo to justify their actions. But Stuart can and should speak for himself to clarify his meaning. 

Posted by john fowles


Anonymous said ... (January 27, 2005 9:01 AM) 

But more to the point John, if this is true, should BYU having anything to do with anyone with even a whiff of "Islamofacism" about them? 

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous said ... (January 27, 2005 11:01 AM) 

Ronan, you're the ecumenical one around here, not me. What do you think? 

Posted by john fowles


Anonymous said ... (January 27, 2005 11:21 AM) 

Well, it's like this: anyone, for example, who says that the US should not cooperate with Egypt or Saudi in the war on terror (TM) is living in cloud cuckoo land. Bush is right to, but he also needs to use this "friendship" to press for reform.

Similarly, if BYU can forge alliances with people with whom it shares some common interests it should, even if said people have less savoury aspects to them. But it should draw the line somewhere. Some people, regardless of the "good" they do, are on the whole just too "bad".

Was the church right to cooperate with the East German regime?  

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous said ... (January 27, 2005 4:55 PM) 

Was the church right to cooperate with the East German regime?I believe it was. By defining itself as a non-reactionary force and a law-abiding institution with law abiding members, it in no way condoned abuses by the East German government; on the other hand, members trapped behind the Iron Curtain were able to enjoy many of the blessings of the Gospel because of such posturing by SLC. 

Posted by john fowles


Anonymous said ... (February 02, 2005 7:52 PM) 

Stuart, sorry, I didn't see your question to me before. In a rare fit of virtue, I decided to delete the e-mail rather than saving it to embarrass someone with at a later date, since I had written just as a curious bystander and not as someone looking for a public statement. If the occasion arises again, I'll be more wicked :) 

Posted by Kristine


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