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


A.M. Journal

Muhammad Speaks

Imam W. Deen Mohammed


(Samuel Bilal interviews Imam W. Deen Muhammad on Feb. 2,1985.)

SAB: Brother Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, do you think that the AMMCOP people, the chairpersons and the people who work with me, the Steering Committee people, do you think that we are showing proper respect for your leadership? Could you suggest to us how we could improve on showing proper respect for your leadership?

WDM: Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim. The AMMCOP people who are working with AMMCOP —yourself and all the chairpersons whom I have met—seem to have an above average level of respect for me and my leadership. 1 consider yourself and those persons who have been working with AMMCOP to be exceptional in many ways when it comes to respecting me and my leadership.

SAB: On AMMCOP getting "off-track"-you mentioned that we had gotten off-track, so to speak. Could you advise us on what you would hope that we would do—suggest, tell us what we should do to get ourselves back on track, so to speak, and to ensure that we live up to our purpose, reason for being, existing as a committee?

WDM: Exactly what I was referring lo when 1 mentioned getting off-track was the activities of AMMCOP workshops and Dawah activities. It appeared that the main concern of AMMCOP— of the concerns where most of the energies were going and originally the annual buy, the big buy —was conceived as being the activity that would make possible many other activities, and many other possibilities, financial possibilities, to improve the situation of the poor members of the community financially.

That provides an opportunity for a person of small means—with hardly any money at all and those having even more dollars, to come together and put their dollars together and purchase for profit through the big, annual purchase so that they could open shops and sell the products that they would get through the collective purchase. And you know we discussed that quite a bit; we had some problems trying to protect the concepts, one being for profit and the other being not-for-profit.

Exactly what I was referring to when I said getting off course was the presence that we see in AMMCOP, most times, that is. Dawah, workshops and fashion shows and entertainment. This to me represents getting off-track when the annual buy is not highlighted all the time. So I think that's understood and I understand why the program kind of got off-track.

I UNDERSTAND why. I think it was because of the rejection the program received even before it was announced. Before AMMCOP was formed, there was a rejection of that program because the Imams of the American Muslim Mission community didn't support the call for such a program.

I think the situation worsened for those Imams, the majority of Imams in our community, when I gave you the responsibility for AMMCOP and you became the National Chairman or the National Director for AMMCOP. The situation worsened for them because they didn't identify with you. Perhaps if we had chosen somebody that they identified with, the situation would have been better.

But perhaps the program would still be locked up somewhere, shelved or just restricted to small weekly purchases by masajid. We didn't want that—we wanted something that would eventually work to improve the financial situation for Muslims and non-Muslims. Not just Muslims of our community, but also for the non-Muslims by showing the example of collective effort and hard work that the other members of the poor community who were not Muslims would be attracted to follow the same pattern if not attracted to the effort of AMMCOP.

IT DON'T THINK most of the Imams wanted that. Maybe they have changed now, I hope they have. I know some of the Imams have come through and they've expressed what I believe to be genuine support for AMMCOP. But still we are waiting for real results. And I think if you begin to call for more energies to be spent in bringing about that big annual purchase once a year and let everything else develop from that effort, I think we will have what we want.

SAB: Brother Imam, do you remember when we first came to you with the program, that we came and asked you if we could have this program, have the collective buying drive in Cleveland. Imam Clyde Rahman accepted to be the chairperson, Dec. 29, 1981 —he was to help us. up until 1982, May.

WDM: I recall that, yes. I recall, in fact, him showing a lack of faith, after awhile, in his ability to make a real contribution to getting it off the ground and he said some things to me expressing frustration that he couldn't get the cooperation of certain Imams.

SAB: Brother Imam this is the last question; I have a transcript of a tape—I'll get the date later on —it's a transcript of the tape they've played in the masajid and centers. The question was asked that if AMMCOP is an economic program, why isn't it possible that an would seem that the business or economics should function with the masjid as well as under the leadership if an Imam is pushing it, right? Then you answered that and said many business, economic and entertainment activities must be outside of the masjid, etc. And the question that we're asking that the answer then?

WDM: Yes it is. You will recall that when I became leader of the community about 10 years ago, we had very serious problems trying to identify our property and monies —where they were, where they went— and it was because people had been given responsibility for business operations, who were not really business-minded people. They were ministers of the Nation of Islam, and many of the ministers, officers, secretaries and even captains weren't really business-minded people or people who had the needed business disciplines or the knowledge and experience to keep good records, to keep things clearly identified so a lot of confusion wouldn't exist.

In this country if you are going to operate a business at a church or mosque, then you have to have a not-for-profit business; because of a lot of technicalities, it's very easy to get yourself into very serious trouble with the IRS, with the government, if, you don't know what you are doing when you bring business into a religious operation.

CERTAINLY IMAMS can go into business, can support business; a religious organization can own a business, but it involves a lot of responsibility and knowledge, and great discipline on the part of those who are going to be responsible in order to meet the legal requirements and to keep the members from being robbed of their assets or their investments. Ignorance can cause the membership to be robbed of their investments.

When you set up businesses inside a mosque. ignorance can be the cause of robbing the members of their investments. Then the law comes in; the tax people come in and you go to court and you lose great sums of money and properties like the situation we have now. I think the situation we have now with the probate courts, which should teach us a lesson that it's best to have five individuals, for example, that are organized for business to be responsible for business.

Committees, even churches, could have financial holdings—real estate, and other properties. The Mormons, and there are many other organizations, they have vast sums of wealth in real estate and properties and even some business operations. But they are well organized and they have business people responsible for it and it goes to the credit of the religion, but actually it's those people who are directly responsible for those operations.

WE HAVE IMAMS who fear to trust responsibility to the members of their congregation, and because of their fear—lack of faith in individual persons in their organizations—they assume too much responsibility and monopolize or form a kind of monopoly on everything. What that does is limit the growth of the community.

I'm aware that the greatest growth for the community will come when there is more trust and more people sharing responsibility and where there are groups representing different interests and not one man or one group of persons calling themselves Imams being responsible for the various or many different kinds of concerns. So I would never support a mosque going into business again, being responsible for business again.

The answer that I gave was intended to say that business is best left to people with business minds, who are free to give it all they have got. And not to Imams who just want to be over the business so that others won't be able to direct it or be in positions where they can influence the development.

SAB: That's the answer that you gave me....

WDM: In effect, it's the same answer that I gave at that meeting with the Imams.