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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal

May 27, 1994

Muslim Journal

The Imam W. Deen Mohammed-Elaine Rivera
Interview: Part 4

(The following interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed and Elaine Rivera, a reporter for New York Newsday, conducted in Calumet City, Illinois on April 11, 1994, will be printed in Muslim Journal in its entirety. This is Part III.)

RIVERA: When your father was alive, did the Nation have a reputation of being anti-Semitic? Or is this just with Louis Farrahkhan?

IMAM MOHAMMED: No ma'am. That has been recent. This is mainly with these new leaders of the Nation of Islam. If the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was here, I'm sure he would have stopped that and them.

RIVERA: It was Black separatism that he believed in?

IMAM MOHAMMED: That is right. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad would not have liked at all that they singled the Jewish people out for attacks or for abuse. Actually it is abuse, the language that they are using is abuse to the Jewish people.

RIVERA: I heard Minister Farrahkhan speak and talked about when he was alive, Malcolm X was considered the biggest anti-Semite. That when he died, the New York Times referred to him as the "apostle of hate." And that is what Louis Farrahkhan is today. But I don't know if Malcolm was considered an anti-Semite.

IMAM MOHAMMED: No. I can't recall that at all. I know there have been few rare occasions where Minister Malcolm spoke of the Jewish people and only when he was put on the spot. It was when Jews challenged him and he was put on the spot and he struck back. They struck at him, and he struck back. He accused them of living off of the Black community. He said they would set up shops in the Black communities and would live off of the poor Black. But this language of "blood suckers" and all of that I think is something that developed after the assassination of Minister Malcolm.

Really, much of the language that we are hearing now directed at Jews and attacking Jews in the Nation of Islam, before was not directed at Jews. It was directed at hypocrites in Christianity. They were the ones called with the expression he used "gutteral" — the expression Farrahkhan used of "gutteral religion." It is in the teachings of the Nation of Islam as: "The religion is so-called Christianity." Or it is something like that. "It is to shield their dirty religion." The charge is against hypocrites in Christianity or devils in Christianity. There is no mention of Jews or Judaism.

RIVERA: Malcolm X, as far as he is concerned, was never considered an anti-Semite as far as you are concerned?

IMAM MOHAMMED: No, indeed. I couldn't say that at all. Malcolm was not really making a lot of fuss about religion. Malcolm was mostly addressing human rights issues and social issues.

RIVERA: He did that a lot.

IMAM MOHAMMED: That is right, even when he was a minister of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad.

RIVERA: And you were friends with him and taught him a lot.

IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, I would say I had some influence on Malcolm because of his respect for me as the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. And I will give you their language, "...the special son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, named after W. D. Fard and receiving the support from the Hon. Elijah Muhammad that one day I would be a helper to my father." Because of that he looked at me differently. He would actually invite me to advise him.

On one occasion he saw a little hesitation in me or nervousness, I guess, and he said, "I want you to be comfortable. I talked to your father about this and told your father that I'd like to talk to you and go to you for certain questions." He was telling me this, that, "Your father encouraged it. He told me he would like to see me and his son get together." After he told me that, I relaxed more. And I would criticize our language and our religious thinking, and Malcolm would listen.

RIVERA: Did you realize then what Malcolm's legacy would be today? That Malcolm was a great man?

IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, I did. But I thought that Malcolm's greatness was as a minister for the Nation of Islam. When he set up his own idea or own organization then I began to fear for him, because I saw that as something that was done in desperation. He was at his best when he was defending the Nation of Islam.

RIVERA: Did you keep in touch with him after the break?

IMAM MOHAMMED: I tried to. And he also called me a couple of times and even asked me to work with him on a case against the Nation of Islam. But I never felt comfortable working with him. To be truthful with you, I pitied him, I felt sorry for him, and I thought that he was going about his own defense in the wrong way. I thought he was separating himself further from the following of the Nation of Islam.

I dreaded that, because I knew if we were to help the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and to take up where he would leave off, that we would have to stay with the Nation of Islam following. That if we separated ourselves completely from the Nation of Islam following, that would be almost impossible for us. So I couldn't work comfortably with Malcolm, although I still gave him a hundred percent support.

I thought Malcolm was dealt with unfairly and was wronged by the Nation of Islam, that depicted him in one of their paper issues as a Judas with horns on his head. It suggested really the beheading of Malcolm, because it showed his head severed from his body. I thought that was very wrong on their part to do that. That was really moved by jealousy in the national staff.

RIVERA: In hindsight do you think he was right in the way he was going about it?

IMAM MOHAMMED: No, I don't think he was right. I still think he was wrong in how he went about it. I think he still should have insisted upon staying as much as possible to the language of the Nation of Islam and rejecting only the conflict for that language and the Qur'an.

RIVERA: The Nation at that time was still advocating Black separatism. And after Malcolm went to Mecca he realized that this was not an issue of race but an issue of decency and rights and humanity.

IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, and I think he should have gone very slowly and quietly with that change.

RIVERA: Like you did.


RIVERA: It's my understanding that right after your father died, there were some things you did right away. Your followers have told me that you undertook one of the largest mass conversions in American history without any bloodshed or warfare.

IMAM MOHAMMED: If I am indebted to the Nation of Islam for anything, I am indebted to it for freedom from any inferiority complexes.

RIVERA: Would you consider the shift of the followers of the Nation of Islam to true Islam one of the largest conversions?

IMAM MOHAMMED: I do believe so.

RIVERA: Do you know how many people you took with you?

IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, I can't be sure but I am sure that is perhaps over 200,000 people.

RIVERA: And you did it very slowly because you wanted to do this?

IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes. And I was a minister in the national staff. So I had respect for the national leaders and I did not invite any battle with them. I tried to steer around any trouble. I didn't want to take on anybody unnecessarily.

RIVERA: What would you say is Malcolm's legacy today?

IMAM MOHAMMED: Malcolm's legacy today is intelligent Black manhood. It is intelligent Black manhood.

RIVERA: Do you ever speculate on what would have happened to Malcolm had he not been assassinated?

IMAM MOHAMMED: I believe that had he not been assassinated, he perhaps would be the leader now and not myself. But he would be coming to me just like he did back then for advice. And perhaps there would be a stronger connection with Africa than we have right now and more attention to the African people.

RIVERA: Now on Farrahkhan. Where do you think he
stands? Can he really be put in the same category with Malcolm X?

IMAM MOHAMMED: I don't see the comparison. I see Farrahkhan more as a prophetic figure, but I wouldn't dare say "false prophet." But I see him more as a prophetic figure. I see Malcolm more as a social reform teacher with a political interest. Malcolm had a political leaning but was more socially based as a person; he was a man of reason and a man of logic. He didn't feel comfortable talking in myths.

If Malcolm were here he would try to steer clear of any language that would make people suspect that he was racist. He would also stay clear of religious mythologies and would not be speaking in any terms except universal terms. That is what I believe, because that was him. He was a rational thinker and prided himself for believing in logic.

Really, the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad were a real strain on Malcolm and a burden on him. So Malcolm, even back then, steered clear of that religious language. He didn't get into that religious language of the Nation of Islam.

RIVERA: Are you put on the spot a lot to try to denounce Farrahkhan?


RIVERA: Do you resent it, that you have to be put in that position?

IMAM MOHAMMED: I understand it, because Farrahkhan is very popular and unpredictable. I resent that Farrahkhan didn't change with me and stay with us. That is what I resent. But I can't resent being put on the spot to answer questions about him or to explain the difference between the two of us. Because that gives me the opportunity to clear the air, and it is not fair to us for our image to be confused by what he is doing. So we have to clear ourselves, and it's a pleasure for me to do that.

(To be continued)