A meeting of local citizens held at Utah Valley University on Oct. 10, confirmed Orem will receive its first mosque.
The new mosque, construction of which is set to begin sometime in the near future, was approved by both the local community of observant Muslims as well as non-Muslim Orem residents, who came together at the UVU meeting to voice their support for the building of a mosque.
The mosque, which was approved last year by the Orem City Planning Committee, will go up at 900 South State St. in Orem. In all, the mosque will occupy about two acres of land and meet the needs of the roughly 100 Muslims in Orem, both Sunni and Shia, who currently meet in a room in the University Parkway Mall for their religious services.
The closest mosque from Orem is in Salt Lake City.
The purpose of the October meeting this year was to address any concerns by local citizens and further explain the plans for building the mosque.
Professor Masood Amin, a professor of engineering at UVU and a faithful Muslim, expressed his excitement for Orem’s first mosque during a panel discussion comprised of a local city planner involved in the project, Professor James Toronto of Brigham Young University, a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies, Professor Amin and Iranian UVU student Reza Taba.
“Having a mosque in Orem is a win-win situation for both Muslims and Mormons in Orem,” Amin said. “Muslims will have a mosque more conveniently located for their worship services, and Mormons, especially students at BYU and UVU, will benefit from the cross- cultural exchange that comes with inter-religious cooperation.”
Reza Taba, another faithful Muslim on the panel, agreed.
“A mosque in Orem will not only be a blessing to local Muslims, but will also show to outsiders that Utah Valley is becoming more diverse and welcoming to non-Mormon religions,” Taba said. “The stereotype that Mormons are intolerant or close-minded will be challenged with the building of a mosque in Orem.”
Besides clarifying aspects of Islam for non-Muslim visitors, Toronto also emphasized the importance of religious pluralism in modern society, drawing parallels between the treatment of Mormonism and Islam as minority religions within the larger context of American society.
Both, he said, have had plenty of religious intolerance directed at them, and therefore encouraged Mormons to sympathize with their Muslim neighbors.
“The position of Muslims in Orem today is a microcosm for all religious minorities,” Toronto said. “Mormons especially should sympathize with modern Muslims, given Mormonism’s history as a religious minority in American culture.”
Although support for the new mosque from non-Muslim citizens of Orem has been overwhelming, a few citizens, according to the panel, expressed their concern over the plans for a mosque at the initial meeting last year. Concerns ranged from zoning and construction complications to fears of increased traffic on State Street. One or two citizens also felt uncomfortable with a mosque on personal religious grounds, but their opposition to the mosque has been the minority opinion.
Both Professors Amin and Taba expressed their thanks to the many non-Muslims, especially students and professors of Arabic and Islamic Studies at BYU, for their support of the construction of the mosque.
“Nothing,” Amin said, “can replace the importance of personal interaction between members of different religions when it comes to fostering understanding and tolerance.”