Imam W. Deen Mohammed Speaks on "Economic Responsibility" - Part 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
An Interview by Bari A. Muhammad
(The following interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed was conducted in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9, 2001. This is its conclusion.)
BAM: You know it says in the Qur'an that Allah made this world into nations and tribes so we can get to know one another and not despise one another.
WDM: Yes, exactly. Acquaintance with each other makes you trust each other. If I don't know you, then darkness produces fear. When I say darkness, I mean ignorance of you produces fear of you, and that's natural. I'm not going to give you my money if I don't know you or just saw you once or twice.
So we should get acquainted with ourselves firstly. But also we are obligated to get to know other people, other cultures. America is crowded now with people of so many different cultures and religions, especially in the West, in California — that area. So a part of our business agenda, our business plan, vision should be to improve the relations with other ethnic groups. Other races, other ethnic groups in this country are good for business. Yes, we have to do business with each other.
Sometimes, the best opportunities are not with the person who is closest to you on the block, it might be with a person who's in another community. Maybe we have to buy through another ethnic group that has the better connection overseas. So it's involved.
What we have to do is be involved. But if we're sincere and if we are like G-d wants us to be, straight up, like the youngster says "straight up man"; as long as we're willing to be straight up, I don't see anything in our way, because we do have professional people.
It's not like it used to be 100 years ago, when you had to hunt for somebody, to search the United States for somebody with a Doctor's Degree. They are everywhere, we have plenty of professional people in this community, with PhDs, much professional knowledge and a lot of university graduates in our community -young, middle age and old. So that's not an excuse anymore.
BAM: So we have to move toward establishment.
BAM: So as Muslims, we are responsible for establishing ourselves and getting our share of this material world. Sir, what are your thoughts on getting our share of the material world, which you just partly alluded to? Are we moving in that direction? Do you think we're moving in that direction now?
WDM: Yes, I do. I know we are, because we feel it, an obligation, a double obligation; we should be supermen. We have a double obligation; we have an obligation to keep working to improve the race, our image in this world as a race is not yet quite what we want it to be.
The world continues to look at us and see people who are not established financially, who have to depend upon others to finance our community, our neighborhoods, etc. We are not developing our neighborhoods as much as some other races are. When we look at developments going on in the African American communities throughout this country, you'll see more investors who are not us than you see us. That's not a good situation for us.
That's not a good picture of a race. We want our picture to be as good as the average race and better, so we have a lot to do. The only way we'll be able to be successful with this select group that we have, that's heading up this business effort, this new business effort to make us developers, to make us financiers, etc.; we have to let the most distant person from this effort know that this effort is not a selfish effort.
We have more motivating us than the desire to make a dollar, the desire to make a better life for myself, for my wife, for my children and for my neighborhood if it's depressed, and for my brothers and sisters who want a job and can't find one or can't find one with enough income, so they won't have to have two or three jobs, you see.
So this is our interest. Our interest is big and G-d loves what we're about now. Yes, I think it is important that we reach the most distant person from this effort -- even the Christians; reach the Christians. After all, we have more Christian neighbors than we have Muslim neighbors. That probably will be going on forever, I don't know. It doesn't seem like we're doing much to convert the Christians to Islam.
You know we don't believe in forcing our religion on anybody. So we're going to have Christians around; they're going to be around, and they're going to be our neighbors. And most likely we might have more Christians in our neighborhood, so our program has to be for Christians, too. Yes, so we include our Christian neighbors; if our Christian neighbors are unemployed, we put a business in that neighborhood.
We are obligated to have at least a percentage of them working for that business. That reflects "justice," that reflects "equal concern for the neighbors." You don't want to be looking for only Muslims, no.
Right now, we have about five employees in the office of ComTrust that I'm responsible for. One is a proud Christian; we all know that person is Christian. And one says As-Salaam-Alaikum to us; I think another is Christian, but I'm not sure. But I know we have one Christian who acknowledges that she's a Christian, and we all admire her. She is one of the finest workers we have, a strong church woman.
BAM: An example of different religions working together.
WDM: Yes, Renee Wilson is her name. So when you come
there, speak to Renee and tell her I told you about her.
BAM: Renee Wilson; that used to be my last name. Sir, Allah tells us in the Qur'an that a man can have nothing but what he strives for, and his striving will soon produce before his eyes. I heard you use the term "Economic Intelligence" before. Would you elaborate on that concept for us?
WDM: I think the audience will best understand it phrased this way: "Business Sense -Good Business Sense." It should begin with good business sense. I'll give you an example. When you shop for groceries for your apartment or you home, you go there and you have a list of what you want. You shop for vegetables; you shop for meats you want; you shop for fruit, bread, milk, eggs, rice and all these things.
When you go back home, you look for space to put it. You put it on the shelves; you put it in the refrigerator. Now that's the way too many people shop. The other way to shop is first before you go to the store, check to see what you have in the refrigerator, check to see what you have on the shelves, so you know your inventory. You know what you have already. So you're not looking for what you've got; you're looking for what you need.
That's "Good Business Sense."
BAM: So needs before wants, always.
WDM: Always, and after you satisfy needs, then splurge a little bit.
BAM: Yes sir. OK, Imam Mohammed, we want to thank you for spending this time with us. We just want to mention one more thing and get your thoughts on this.
It's our upcoming Mid Atlantic Distributorship Conference on Sat., March 10, and Sun., March 11, with a Public Address given by you, Muslim American Society leader and businessman, Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Your topic will be "Responsibility: A Critical Concern for a People Pursuing Business Establishment." The location is Prince George Community College, 301 Largo Rd., Largo, Md., at the Queen Ann Auditorium. On Saturday, there will be two workshops. The first workshop will be "Planning and Maintaining a Successful Distributorship, A Panel Discussion," with some of the officers of CPC.
WDM: Excellent, excellent program.
BAM: And then for lunch, we'll have a Networking Lunch, people will come and bring their business cards and letters of introduction.
WDM: Yes, businessmen will have an opportunity to make us aware of what they're selling and what their services are and their products. We can do business together.
BAM: That's one of the great benefits of Networking.
WDM: Yes, it is.
BAM: I wish you could make this; the workshop at 1 p.m. is called "Commitment and Follow Through — A Vital Link" until 2:30 p.m. The cost for both workshops and the lunch is only $15. It's very inexpensive.
BAM: And on Sunday, we have a Graceline Fashion Show with the theme, "The Modest Touch," reflects the style of dress for Muslims and other decent people.
WDM: Now that's something I always hate to miss. I'll try to catch them all. I see us moving fast toward becoming as big as the Ebony Fashions.
BAM: Yes sir. And your Public Address is on Sunday from
2 to 3 p.m. at the Queen Ann Auditorium at Prince George Community College.
WDM: And usually my talk now is 40 minutes to an hour.
BAM: And the admission price for both is $ 10. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m.
WDM: That's something we all can afford, and I'm sure we're going to be paid tenfold.
BAM: Yes sir. We're going to do our best! Are there any comments you want to make on our topics or just the program itself?
WDM: First of all, I want to congratulate you on a very beautiful and excellent program. It might be the best we’ve had so far. We had a number of them over the last two to three years. They tell me you have some terrific fashion ladies, too.
BAM: Oh yes, coming from Richmond, from Philadelphia and some designers from those areas, too.
WDM: So all of those senior citizens, you men who still have dreams, please come and see these young ladies and buy something, too.
BAM: That's right; that's going to be one of the main things, sir, to shop with the designers and the vendors. A lot of independent designers are going to be there.
WDM: Yes, I saw some garments, and they weren't on sale at that time. But I said to myself we should be selling these garments, because I want to buy a couple I saw modeled. I wanted to buy it right on the spot.
BAM: OK, so we want to thank you, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, for being with us this evening, sharing with us.
WDM: My pleasure and I'm proud of what you're doing here.
BAM: Thank you very much. I hope to see you again soon and have you back on our show.
WDM: Thank you, Bro. Bari.