I’m guessing when you hear, “Salt Lake City,” the first M-word that comes to mind is not “Muslim.” While one could argue that Mormons and Muslims have similarities in addition to both being “new and improved” versions of Christianity, they are not often associated.
Even so, on a recent trip to Utah, I was on the lookout for Muslims. In part, because I usually am, but also because I was fixing to tell a local church they should reach out to them. Such an admonition becomes more annoying than normal when none live nearby!
Happily, between landing around noon and turning in my rental car at 7 pm, I met three or four Muslims, a super kind Thai woman and a grumpy Russian guy (His grumpiness likely owing more to traveling with teenagers, than with being Russian!).
I also had a minor league epiphany: Possibly the best second or third question to ask when building an initial relationship with a Muslim is, “Is it beautiful?” In this case “It” is wherever they told you home was when you asked first, “Where are you from?”
Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and many of the Muslims we’re likely to meet carry nostalgia from a life somewhere else, this question will probably be answered affirmatively.
Odds are also good you’ve not been where they’re from, so the question is honest and ripe for follow up with, “tell me about it,” or “I’d love to go there someday.”
I know I love to tell people how beautiful Indiana and Colorado, my “froms,” are. Don’t you? So give this a try. Expect it to lead to questions about family, comparisons to current life and, if you’re feeling feisty, to the God from whom all beauty emanates.
If you and a like-minded Christian friend were going to start a book club with a couple of Muslim friends, what books might you want on the reading list? For me, I’d want to read Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, probably my favorite novel of all time. If this question intrigues you and you can spare us a moment, please list a couple here.