The men, all Muslims, kneeled in unison at evening prayers in the Khadeeja mosque, their incantations laced with anxiety over the fate of one of their spiritual brothers, a marine held captive on the other side of the world.
“Oh, Allah, we read the Koran to pray for the release of our brother Hassoun,” the voice of the mosque’s religious leader boomed over speakers around the white-walled room, referring to Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24, whose family worships at the mosque.
At Salt Lake City’s three mosques – two Sunni and one Shia – such supplications have become standard since Sunday, when news came of Corporal Hassoun’s capture in Iraq.
Given its overwhelmingly Mormon population, Utah might seem an unlikely place for Muslim immigrants from Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia, Sudan and Pakistan. But the Muslim population of Utah has grown rapidly, to about 25,000, most of whom arrived in the last decade in the wake of conflicts around the world that in some cases involved ethnic cleansing.
The Iraqi community alone, its size swelled by the Persian Gulf War, numbers about 3,000. Many of the men are taxicab drivers here in Salt Lake City, where the street grid is designed around the location of Temple Square, the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Though far outnumbered by Mormons, some Muslims here point out how well the two faiths coexist, and have marveled at the way Mormons came forward to offer comfort not only after the attacks of Sept. 11 – in which about 500 Muslims are believed to have died – but also in the last few days…