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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal

April 23, 1993

Muslim Journal

Addressing The Interfaith Roundtable

Imam W. Deen Mohammed

I believe that we are seeing in our time developments that could bring us closer to the goal or the destiny for us in our different religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The time has never been better for that. We are fortunate to be living in a time now that will produce even better Muslims than we have seen since the time of our Prophet Muhammed. the prayers and the peace be on him. It is my own sensing that certain circumstances have developed and are developing that will favor us coming into better perception of our own goals and destinies as religious people of these great faiths.

I also believe that great world events work to bring men closer together, events such as the creation of this nation, the United States. The economic developments now in the international world make it necessary for all nations to solve problems on this earth at a table where everybody has equal respect. The issues before us in the United States also favor us growing into the destiny for us in our different faiths and in our different communities.

I could not have sensed that in the United States when I was a boy. But the United States of today is such a place. The United States itself has grown closer to its destiny as conceived by those who build upon the idea of this democracy. Today we live in a United States that has one law for all its citizens. That is a change from when I was a boy.

Now we are hearing not only the name "Islam" from non-Muslim mouths, we are hearing from non-Muslims a new respect and recognition for Islam. Recognition is paid to the international Muslim community of the world of Christian and Jewish people. This is something we did not hear when I was a boy. What 1 felt in the atmosphere and heard over the air waves was a hostility toward Muslims and a hostility toward Islam. That has changed in my lifetime. AI Hamdu Lillahi Praise God.

This change is because of two things: It is because of our common political destiny said to be inherent in the idea of this democracy. It is also because of the religious destiny that is in all of our great faiths, whether we recognize the implications or not.


Q: There has been a great deal of concern raised about the Muslims in Bosnia. What are your thoughts in regards to that particular situation?


IWDM: I don't know if 1 have been fortunate to have any information that you don't have. I think we have the same information. I agree with the position that has been taken by one strong Senator (DeConcini) and I think there are more Senators and leaders in our government that take this position.

That is, this (Bosnia) is a shame on humanity. It (the cruelties) is like the holocaust in many ways. It (Bosnia) resembles the holocaust and should bring all decent powers together against it, to pressure Serbia to change its treatment of the people of Bosnia. If necessary, I think more force than just moral condemnation and . withholding of financial support should be considered.

I believe that if we hold that it was imperative to go to war against Hitler, then we should consider going to war against the Serbians if they don't accept to reform.


Q: On a local level, are there any views you could share with us regarding the urban ills that our country faces? How can the religions interact to deal with unemployment, crime, and drugs?


IWDM: I'm sure that we share the same thinking and the same position. The former President Carter has a project in Atlanta and he is taking it to Washington, DC, to Detroit, Michigan and to a few other cities. President Carter is moved by the love of humanity, but he is also a Christian minister. I think that his religion may have much to do with his involvement and this is not owing just to his love of humanity.

Being president of the United States perhaps made him aware of many things that we will never be in a position to get the same awareness of. But I believe what really motivates him is his Christian faith. And as Muslims, we have the same commitment to the poor, the weak, the sick, the uneducated, the unprotected. We have the same commitment that Christians have. We all do have an obligation.

We should not only accept that we as religions deal with the problems separately. It (the moral neglect) needs us to come together and work on these problems. I know the answers are in our religions; we have the answers. It is not as much the role of government as it is the role of religious people to deal with these problems and to do something to change these conditions.

The best thing we can do for the people is to be honest with them and to teach them to accept responsibility for themselves. Teach them to be more accountable for their own actions, for their own thoughts, their own behavior.


Q: You say that other religions of America are more respectful of the Muslim religion. Have any overtures been made to you personally by the Jewish community and by elements in the Christian community to bring the religions together to collaborate on particular issues or to come together just to understand one another?


IWDM: There has been this interest. I can read it in the correspondence I have received and from word of mouth of some Rabbis and from some very influential Christian ministers. I read them as saying that is their desire. But an actual step to get a reply from me to do this, I have not received that. I feel there are strong and influential persons in the community of Christian Americans and Jewish Americans who have indicated to me the willingness to get together and work on problems together.

Perhaps part of it is my fault that I have not followed up on this. I feel that I myself should go to some of these people and request that we talk about these things. I intend to do that.


Q: What are some of the problems you feel need to be ironed out?


IWDM: There are a lot of problems, and you all are working on the problems. You are doing a lot — you as Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

I feel that what is needed most importantly is openness. We must be very open and sincere, plain and clear. We need to restate what is to be expected from government and what is to be expected from church, mosque, and synagogue. We need to restate what is to be expected from families, homes, parents, and children.

The world is too confused, and we (many) don't know what God expects from us. We have lost a sense of what God expects from us, and that needs to be stated clearly for society again.


Q: I would like to hear your opinion on race relations in the United States. You started your remarks by basically saying a lot of things have changed for the positive and the potential for positive does exist. One of the problems we see here in Detroit is the lack of good race relations. People are working on it, but we still are one of the most segregated areas in the United States. What are your views?


IWDM: I believe for a few Americans of all colors, but especially for blacks and whites, real progress is being made. It is a steady and constant progress. But unfortunately for the public, for the majority of the people, it will seem as though we are going backwards. I have to agree with those who say there is more racism in the air now than I can ever recall. I hear more racist talk coming from my own folk. African Americans or blacks, than I have ever heard in my lifetime. There are more complaints about the problems we are suffering or the bad conditions in our life and it is blamed on racism.

I remember when there were two laws in this land, one for blacks and one for whites. And even then we were not excusing all of our problems on the white man. We were accepting some responsibility Hut now the tendency is to just blame the whites or white America for everything.

I won't put all of the blame for this on the commercial media, but I think the commercial media in the United States is the most racist. I feel a strong element is happy with the races at each other. That is not all. they are happy with father and son at each other. It gets everyone out of their way so they can sell what they please and do whatever they please. They want unhindered access to our pockets, and we have let it happen. We are to blame for letting it happen.

We are not challenging commercial media or the divisive influences. When we see these influences developing in the media or anywhere else that will hurt the inherent bonding nature of human life, family, social life, we have an obligation to try and do something about it.


Q: We see fundamentalism rising in a variety of religions. Could you comment on this?


IWDM: Actually fundamentalism is to me a frightening word. But the word "fundamental" is not. I think to many Muslims of the world "fundamentalist" is a good word. They are confused and ask, "Why don't they accept us being fundamentalists?" When we hear the American expression, "Let's go back to basics," this is what they are saying. That is all. That is what it means in Islam, to go back to those basic beliefs that established Muslims.

First of all, it is fundamental to follow the Qur'an in its purity. It is not always how some sect or some school of thought wants to present it. Muslims want to go back to the Qur'an's purity and to the Prophet's teachings. Muslims do not want to see these teachings twisted or shaped to serve someone's special interest. This is what is meant by being "fundamental" or being a "fundamentalist" in Islam.

It is very important in America that we influence the media to know that there is a problem in the language. When Muslims of the world hear us condemning fundamentalism, they think we are condemning them for believing in the Qur'an and for believing in Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him.

I don't think I am fanatic. I don't think I'm irrational. I don't think I'm a drunken minded person or a foolhardy person. I think I am a sensible sober-minded course-charting person. And I have read the Qur'an and studied the life of Muhammed and looked at what it has produced. It has produced a pretty good American. So if it can do it for me, it can do it for many others. Don't be afraid of the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet. That did not hurt me; that helped me.


Q: What are the implications for us as Muslims in this country? Especially with the events of the bombing of Iraq. I strongly feel that among the Muslims all over the world there is a feeling that the United States has another set of standards to deal with them. I don't know anyone who loves Saddam Hussein, and we don't want to get the question confused, but the United States appears to have double standard* with other situations in the world. Please comment.


IWDM: I too am disturbed and also saddened by the developments that brought the allies and the United States with President Bush to start the bombings again. Ted Kop-pel was asking questions of his guests, and he said something important. He pointed to Bosnia and to the situation in Iraq and said. "Why is it when Saddam hiccups in the wrong direction, he is jumped on?"

My sympathy is not with Saddam, but when Ted Koppel said that it did strike home. I think we have to accept that our country is not really under the control of one man, not even in the hands of the president of these United States. So much is in his hands. It is not just President Bush who makes these decisions.

I do suspect that there is more material interest involved with Saddam than with the other places we have' in mind. Material interest brings together other interests: military and political interests. We all live on the earth and eat from things that grow out of the earth. So I am thinking that he-cause of the oil interest and the strategic interest, we see a different treatment. The interest for now is greater in these oil rich countries. The president cannot decide what will happen there by himself. That does not mean we should accept it. If we can influence correct change, we should do it.

As Muslims, we should try to bring Saddam and Iraq, Kuwait. Saudi Arabia at least to accept that no matter how many times they fail to come to some acceptable agreement with each other that respects them all equally, they must continue to seek agreement. That is what is burning in me. To tell them, "You are Muslims. Why are you leaving the solutions all up to a non-Muslim country?"

It is a shame that Muslim nations have to have non-Muslim nations come over to them and protect one Muslim from another Muslim. It is a shame on us. Muslims should never accept that they don't settle their own affairs by shuraa. Maybe Muslims in America and in other areas can make an effort to bring pressure on those three Muslim countries. We also must put pressure on our government to be even handed.