New Africa Radio Logo
W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal

February 23, 1996

Muslim Journal

Positive Alliances - Part 2

An Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed

AKM: In regards to the sentence that was handed down to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. He has been given life in prison and will probably spend that sentence in the United States. Is there any comments regarding that sentence?


Imam Mohammed: Myself, I don't know his innocence. I believe that Sheikh Omar is a sincere person and a person trying to serve Islam. However, sometimes the suffering of such persons or sometimes they don't suffer directly but take on another Muslim's suffering. And if Muslims start taking on the suffering of Muslims in the world like in the Middle East and in Kashmir and in Bosnia and other parts of the world, if we take on the suffering of these countries and we dwell on it and live constantly with the miseries of Muslims, it can do something to our spirit and to our mental make up. It can make a good person become an extremist.

I am not saying that is what happened in the case of Sheikh Omar, but that could have happened. He has my sympathies and my love as a brother Muslim. I wish it could have been worked out differently where he-didn't have to spend time in prison, but it hasn't worked out that way. So we have to accept that we don't know the whole case; we only know what we have heard and his innocence may not be what I think it is. So I have to allow for that, that he may be more guilty than I suspect. I have no comment on his conviction other than what I have given you. I hope he is able to spend his time as a faithful Muslim and make a contribution even as a prisoner. Many have done that, as you know.


AKM: Just one other aspect in regard to the prison system, we know how harsh it can be for the many who have experienced it. Is there any possibility of an appeal going to the prison officials to give him respectable quarters?


Imam Mohammed: That is a great idea; I hadn't thought of it and no one had presented that concern to me before you did it. I think that is something we should consider very strongly. I think we should do it. We should make an appeal for them to treat him as a Sheikh in Islam, a scholar and as a person who has devoted himself to the preaching of the faith and to the protection of the faith. I think we should do that. I know, for I have been in prison. I was in prison when Jimmy Hoffa was being sent to the prison where he would serve his time. He came through Sandstone, the prison where I was serving time for selective service violation. And the respect Hoffa got was great. We were told that Hoffa was coming, and the administration and everybody else did not treat him as a common prisoner.

In fact, for myself — I was the son of Elijah Muhammad and they did not treat me like the average person in prison. They gave me a different kind of treatment, a special treatment as the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Although the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was teaching that they were a nation of devils, they gave me a special treatment. If they would give me a special treatment and I was the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, who was at that time pretty bitter although he got a little more milder later, I think we should ask them to give special consideration to Sheikh Omar so that his life will be as comfortable as possible while he is serving his time.


AKM: Here locally in Chicago, we have had some new developments regarding a piece of property the community had invested in - Masjid Ar-Rahman and its clearing of the debt on that property. Recently this took place and it is free and clear now.


Imam Mohammed: And it is beginning to bring relief to me, the steps that they have made so far have been very good. And as we say, we can see light in the tunnel now. I have to give special thanks to the Muslim Business Association and Bro. Elliott El-Ami n for the assistance that they have given, and also to the Board of Masjid Ar-Rahman and to Imam Rabbani Mubashshir. They are really moving to get rid of all problems, so the Masjid will be free of any financial tie ups.

Once that is done and the properties are sold, I think we can find a better location for the Masjid. 1 know we can find a much better location for the Masjid than what we have on Division Avenue on the Westside. Even on the Westside there are residential areas that make for a better environment for Muslims to come in when Muslims are coming to do their prayers. So we hope they will finish their business of freeing the properties and then sell the properties and put the moneys of those properties after cost of their expenses for whatever they have to do, to put those moneys into a special account.

They desired for me to take over that responsibility, and I offered to do that and they have accepted that I take over that responsibility. And I will do it once the moneys are placed into the Ministry's account. When the moneys are placed into the Ministry's account, then I will be responsibility for the money and for acquiring a new location and a new facility for the Masjid here in the area. And I will be the Resident Imam, insha-Allah.


AKM: Insha-Allah, and that will be good news for Chicago. One expression that came up in regards to these developments was this. That once the properties are sold and if it comes at a time where there is left an interim period before the new Masjid is established, those attending Masjid Ar-Rahman are asking what direction should they go in, in terms of their jumuahs and religious services. What would be your recommendation to them in
the interim period?


Imam Mohammed: I hope that they will be able to continue to have their activities at that location until the properties are sold and the new buyers say they want the properties turned over to them. If that should happen before we are able to provide another facility for the service, I would suggest that they go to the nearest masjid that we have throughout the Chicago area,


AKM: Are there any other trips that you would like to speak about that are being planned for the 1996 year coming up?


Imam Mohammed: Yes, we have been invited to visit Malaysia. I have wanted to visit Malaysia for a long time. For fifteen or twenty years maybe I have wanted to visit Malaysia, because I have met some of the citizens of Malaysia who visited us and came to us right after I became the leader, in fact. And they expressed great, great joy over hearing that we were bringing the community more in line with the Qur'an and with the life of our Prophet, prayers and peace be on him. Since then I have also had occasional correspondence or words sent to me from important people in the establishment of Malaysia. Most of them are devoted to religion, but some of them are just citizens devoted to the culture and economics of Malaysia.

So I am very, very eager to visit and I hope that this visit will come soon. I believe it will come about perhaps in April, if not sooner.


AKM: We understand that there is some possibility that you will be visiting the Pope in the near future at the Vatican.


Imam Mohammed: We feel pretty certain that that is going to come about too. But it is not finalized yet. And that is why I did not mention it. But I do feel pretty certain of it. I would want to share with the readers our very sincere and special interest in improving the relations for Muslims and Christians and in particular for Islam and Catholicism.

Muslims in the international world, especially in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt, have had dialogue with leading personalities of the Catholic religion. And I would say that on the leadership level, there is good air between Catholics and Muslims. So we would like to contribute to that. I would personally like to send a message out to the world, a symbolic message or one formed upon my history. I'm the son of Elijah Muhammad, and everybody knows what he represented. And there must have been something in that man that the world is not aware of, for myself to be where I am today and doing what I'm doing.

So I think it would mean a lot to the Muslims and the religious people of the world to know that the son of Elijah Muhammad desires an audience with the Pope in the Vatican. I would also like to see the Vatican.


AKM: Is there anything to say about a possible trip to Israel?


Imam Mohammed: Oh yes, that is definite. We wanted to go together—a leader from the Muslim community, a leader from the Jewish community, and a leader from the Christian community. It was Dr. Benton and Rabbi Zimmerman at first, but now I think it will be Rabbi Habermann, our old friend. And I say that because Rabbi Habermann made us his friends and made himself our friend when he gave a talk once at the Masjid when I was the Resident Imam on Stony Island in Chicago.

We will go together just in the interest of better feelings between Christians, Muslims and Jews, but also to visit the places in that area that are under the government of Israel's protection now that are important to us as persons of our respective faiths. They will visit the shrines that are sacred to them, and I will visit, insha-Allah, the Mosque of the Dome — Al-Aqsa, and make prayers there. That is my strong desire. So, insha-Allah, I will be able to make prayers in the Mosque of the Dome.


AKM: We will be waiting to make a report after each of those visits.


Imam Mohammed: Yes. But since we asked for that invitation, we have also received an invitation from one of the cultural institutions of Israel for me to participate in a kind of a dialogue and to make a statement on the role or the meaning of nation in the context of scripture and religion. I have some special, I would say, disagreement with the treating of Jerusalem or land claimed by the Jews as a claim that is supported by scripture. That is my position, and they are aware of that. And they still invited me to speak. I don't know how I will be received.


AKM: This is a new era.


Imam Mohammed: It is a new era. You are aware that I believe that nation in scripture is never a geography. It is always a concept. The nation exists in its ideology, and anywhere you carry that ideology and live it, that is your nation that God wants you to have. But there are certain places that have been named, like for us there is the Kaa'ba, the house built by Prophets Abraham and his son, peace be upon them. That special house is in a particular land and it is special to us and it is a geography that has been established
by scripture.

But in my opinion that does not mean that that land, and this may not be taken well either, has to always be under the Saudis. Those places have to belong to the Muslims of the world, but it does not have to always be under the Saudis. God may bring another people in there who may take over that land. We hope it won't happen, especially when we have such fine custodians of the holy places.

It is the same thing for Israel. If they were promised that land, then they were promised it as a religious people and not as a political body or as a political nation. So if other people take it over, they should still be given the rights to that place and they should be respected. But scripture, in my opinion, does not give any people permanent claim on any geography — not as a political body.

That is my position, that the idea is abstract and their nation is a portable nation that they can carry anywhere. Wherever there is an opportunity for them to have their nation, they can have it there. Although their sacred places remain where they are and they should be given the right to those sacred places and the right to be in charge of those sacred places, if those sacred places were .given to them by God in their scriptures.


AKM: I think that would solve a lot of wars.


Imam Mohammed: Sure it would. I think so too.


AKM: It would solve wars from India to Israel and probably to Bosnia as well, if they will take that interpretation of scripture from you into consideration.


Imam Mohammed: So we hope to visit Israel for four days in March of this year.


ARM: Brother Imam, I know that time is valuable and we appreciate the value of your time and your sharing of it with us.


Imam Mohammed: Thank you and I appreciate this opportunity. I didn't think it would take this long to express some things that I wanted to express. But you gave me the opportunity to express them to you and to the readers on my previous two visits to Saudi Arabia and the plans for my third visit coming up shortly.


AKM: Perhaps we can end this then on a note of "to be continued some time in the future." Because every time we ask a question and you give an answer, it also brings another thought where we could go on and on.


Imam Mohammed: We have great protectors of the faith and very generous protectors of the faith in the King and the princes of Saudi Arabia. So I would ask the Muslims to pray for the King and his good health, and pray for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that it stays in good shape and that it has Allah's protection. We pray that the prosperity continues for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


AKM: Thank you very much.


Imam Mohammed: You are welcome.