Steve Gilliland
Fareed Farukhi (left), Saghir Aslam, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, at the Los Angeles World Affairs Dinner.

Among some 800 attendees at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council to hear President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's remarks on May 25 were more than 30 Muslim leaders from Southern California.

Many of the Muslims were able to thank President Uchtdorf, the second counselor in the First Presidency, personally for the LDS Church's friendship with Muslims and the support they feel from the church in combating prejudice and fostering good will.

President Uchtdorf originally met some of the leaders following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He was serving at that time as president of the North America West Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked to meet with Muslim leaders at a mosque in Southern California. He expressed concern for the prejudice many Muslims and their families were experiencing. He let them know that the LDS people also had to learn to cope with the sting of unjust persecution and that he, as a German, grew up being unjustly persecuted after World War II.

At the World Affairs Council dinner, the Muslim leaders expressed thanks for the LDS Church humanitarian projects in their birth countries.

"From the worst earthquake to hit Pakistan in 2005 through the most recent disastrous floods, the LDS Church has been with us helping people in our cities and out to our most remote villages," Saghir Aslam said. "We came tonight to express our thanks."

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The leader of the Shura Council of Southern California, Shakeel Syed, said, "President Uchtdorf's message for mutual respect and love between the human family resonates with my Islamic values. I pray that Muslims and Mormons continue to uphold these universal values and share them with the world. We are being blessed for bringing our communities together."

Many stakes in Southern California have had joint activities with their Muslim neighbors, doing humanitarian projects, interfaith dinners, youth activities and Mosque visits. LDS members have spoken favorably of their Muslim neighbors before city councils, in interfaith gatherings, to the media and on the Internet.

Steve Gilliland serves as the director of Muslim relations for the LDS Church's Public Affairs Council of Southern California.