In 1921, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, a representative of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the first Muslim missionary to America, launched the The Moslem Sunrise, a newspaper intended to help proselytize Americans. In its October 6, 1922 issue, Sudiq included a short excerpt from another paper on “Mormon Christians.” Here it is in its entirety:
“Attempts are made every year by Mormon agents to lure hundreds of British girls to life of polygamy. From house to house in town and village they go, seeking to make converts of religiously-disposed young women and to persuade them to emigrate to Utah, where polygamy is taught and practiced.
This fact is denied. But the Mormon ‘apostles’ are as zealous today as they were in 1837, when the first party landed in this country and introduced 2,000 British subjects to go back with them to America. Heber J. Grant, the present president of the Mormon church, had three wives. ‘I won my first,’ he says, ‘and then took a second and third, and loved them with equal devotion. It is true that occasional jealousies occur, but that happens in all families.’ President Grant succeeded in 1918 Joseph Smith, the sixth president, who had five wives and forty-two children, and died at the age of eighty.” Apostolic Review–May 22.
There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the content. Accusations of polygamy’s persistence continued to be leveled against Latter-day Saints for decades after its abandonment as an official practice of the church. But such accusations take on new meanings when (re)published by an Indian-born Muslim migrant to the United States. Much of The Moslem Sunrise‘s early issues were devoted to dispelling myths about Islam and its adherents, including (predictably) its attachment to polygamy. In the paper’s very first issue, Sadiq penned a lengthy editorial on the subject. Under the heading, NO POLYGAMY, he assured readers that “I have not come here to teach plurality of wives.” Acknowledging that polygamy was practiced by Muslims elsewhere in the world, Sadiq distinguished between Islam’s “commandments” (those teachings which must always be followed) and “permissions” (those that “can be avoided” if they conflict with local custom or law). Just as Muslims in India “keep away from eating beef,” Muslim men in the United States were prohibited from marrying multiple women. “If a Moslem will ever preach or practice polygamy in the America,” Sadiq forcefully concluded, “he will be committing a sin against his religion.”
Just as some African American Protestants joined their white coreligionists in condemning Mormon polygamy in an attempt to fully integrate in white-run denominations, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq found in Mormonism a convenient contrast to his and other American Muslims’ commitment to American laws.