Yesterday Amira wrote a post titled “Liking Islam.” Discussion followed and I shared some critical perspectives and concerns of Islam. At least a few people expressed strong reservations about the nature and tone of the arguments being made and wondered whether LDS people should debate these things publicly.

Mfrati wrote:

“I think if anyone wants to criticize Islam, they should take it to another site where you are completely anonymous and you don’t mention that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!” [go here for the entire comment]

Herodotus wrote:

“I think we’d all agree that there is a place for discussing our preconceptions and misconceptions of other religions. But perhaps mfranti is right that we need to keep it private. It does beg the question of the purpose of this discussion. Are we here to find a real exchange of ideas? If so, we’ve got to expect some misinformed and perhaps ugly sentiments to occasionally surface.” [go here for the entire comment]

With due respect to both commenters, I disagree (for a number of reasons) with the idea that LDS discussions about Islam should be entirely relegated to private or anonymous communications. That suggestions strikes me as absurd for a number of reasons.

First, due to contemporary events, Islam is in the public eye more than ever. As a topic it merits, even demands discussion. When the subject comes up, there should be an open dialogue where a wide variety of perspectives and ideas (positive and negative) can be expressed, analyzed, supported or refuted.

Second, while we (Mormons) should seek to understand Islam from the Islamic perspective(s) we should also gain a perspective of Islamic beliefs/culture/etc. in relation to our own beliefs. That means discussing differences as well as similarities. In the process, it is not our duty as LDS people to step away from all potential controversy and merely express positive opinions about Islam. It can be as perfectly reasonable to say “I don’t like such-and-such about Islam” as it is to say “I like such-and-such about Islam.” Scrutinizing and examining Islam in an open-minded, critical and scholarly manner is entirely appropriate.

Third, Islam should not get special treatment. I’m not saying that we should be disrespectful or unfair. Quite the opposite. However, we shouldn’t be afraid to broach the topic because LDS people a) have varied opinions, b) sometimes express negative or critical comments or c) are sometimes misinformed. Except for being misinformed, these possibilities aren’t necessarily problems in the first place. Plus, these potentials are always present, regardless of what subjects arise. To set those kinds of concerns as a standard (for any topic) would end all discussion. There is not, I feel, any valid reason to treat the topic of Islam differently.