CAIRO – Seeking to affirm her religious beliefs, a Muslim student has joined a Mormon university in north-western US state of Idaho to celebrate shared moral and social values.
"I feel like I'm testing my own religion by getting to know the LDS [the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] religion," Schada Alkamari, a freshman at Brigham Young University-Idaho, told Standard Examiner.
Alkamari, a devout Muslim of Moroccan origin, is the only one enrolled at the university.
She attends LDS church meetings, takes BYU-Idaho religion classes and has read the Book of Mormon twice.
“The foundation of the (Mormon) religion just doesn’t convince me,” Alkamari said.
“It actually convinces me more to stay with Islam, because I can look at Islam more objectively knowing the LDS faith.”
Yet, she finds many parallels between the two religions, such as fasting, tithing, chastity, modesty and an emphasis on family.
"I feel so comfortable with Mormons because their principles and values really match my own,” she said.
Alkamari’s relationship with Mormons began as a high school exchange student in Virginia.
“(My host family) told me they were LDS, and I was very curious. That was why I had come to the United States in the first place,” Alkamari said.
“So I got a skirt, I went to church, and I loved it.”
Like any other branch of Christianity, Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ, but has substantial differences in belief to the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches.
According to them, Mormon is the name of the prophet who compiled the book of scripture known as the Book of Mormon.
Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is another scriptural witness of Jesus Christ that is comparable to the Bible, which they also believe to be the word of God.
There are some 5.8 million Mormons in the US today, part of over 12 million members worldwide.
The United States is home to some six to eight million Muslims.
Sharing moral and social values, Muslims and Mormons are getting closer in the United States.
"Many Islamic parents want their children to get a solid, high-quality education at an American university, but in an environment that reinforces values and is respectful and safe,” said David Peck, a doctor of Middle Eastern studies at BYU-Idaho.
"Church universities are attractive because they emphasize ... going to church and being engaged daily in religion."
Yet, Alkamari said she has endured some religious discrimination from some of BYU-Idaho students.
“I got some hurtful comments, like ‘you guys bombed the World Trade Centers’ or ‘you guys all look like each other,’ ” Alkamari said.
"It is hard, because when you are (the) odd (person) in a huge society — a negative comment can make you feel like one against everybody."
However, these incidents did not affect Alkamari who takes most hardships in stride, according to her colleagues.
“Schada has a great deal of respect for Mormons ... and she is so understanding even when she gets negative feedback,” said fellow student Kristian Workinger.
“She has a good sense of humor and is able to laugh through her trials with a smile on her face.”
In a 2001 essay, Arnold Green, a history professor at Brigham Young University, wrote that Mormonism and Islam have become associated in several ways.He said Mormonism s sometimes called the Islam of America.
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