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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

Voice of America: "Islam in America"

Imam W. Deen Mohammed


(The following are excerpts from a "Voice of America" teleconference interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed participating with Dr. Vincent Cornell of Duke University in Raleigh, JVC. on July 24,1992. The interview emanates from Dhaka and was aired in Islamabad, Ankara, New Delhi, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Lagos.)

IWDM: Our history (of Islam in the U.S.) did not start with me. It started with Elijah Muhammad Our history in America began with us needing to be freed from slavery. After Emancipation we found ourselves needing a sense of belonging, accepted citizens of a nation, for the law here was segregation. There was a law for blacks and a law for whites. This for some resulted in a call to 'black nationalism."

We had 'black nationalists' from non-Muslim blacks and also from Muslims. My father, Elijah Muhammad, may God forgive him all of his sins and grant him Paradise, had his own serious Nation of Islam, which was really a movement toward "black" pride. But it had in it a fervent connection with Islam. Thank God we have benefited from that and have come to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed.

With the help of good Christians who pressured for Civil Rights and good American citizens, non-blacks also, we realized a changed America -we witness a society that has greatly changed. Some of us now believe we can have a sense of belonging in this nation of Americans.


QUESTION: Do you find problems with your Muslim identity among the American people as a whole? Is there discrimination to you as Muslim?


IWDM: There are some problems, but there has been such a great change that we don't feel these problems are any more serious for us than for some Christian denominations or Jewish or anybody else. We feel that our situation is normal now. We expect that everybody will never all love you, and everybody will never all believe the same. We think our situation is normal and we can make good progress in America. Only from a small minority of Americans do we feel pressure or hostilities. They are small and we seldom meet such persons. But occasionally we do have to face that, and we join Christians who do not like bigots, do not like those who reject people because they belong to another religion. We join hands with all good elements in the American society — Muslims and non-Muslims.


QUESTION: Are there any factions among the African American Muslims, with the people who follow Malcolm X or someone like him and followers of your father and yourself?


IWDM: There are many influences and beginning perhaps with a man called Drew Ali who was a "black man" back in the early 1930's and around the same time that Professor Fard introduced my father to his idea of Islamic black nationalism. So we have many factions. Malcolm X's memory has been recently revived by Spike Lee, a movie maker. There is a movie soon to come out called (Malcolm) X. There is a lot of attention to Malcolm X now, especially from the youngsters on the streets. There are many youngsters who are idled, who have no work and are on the streets. This attention to the "X" is temporary and is more of a fad, but it is good for us we think. It is going to attract them to Islam, and any meeting with Islam is good. It will eventually convert many of them, and we will have more Muslims in the United States as a result of this attention to Malcolm X.


QUESTION: Are you trying to work on the differences among the factions and bring about some kind of unity?


IWDM: About six years back and further we had to fight for our own life and establish ourselves in our own position as Muslims belonging to the ummah of Muslims internationally. First, we were insisting that we establish what is right and best for all of us and stick (faithfully) straight to that. But now we know we have to be diplomatic and work too for the unity of all Muslims. So we have patience with those who differ with us.


QUESTION: Being Muslims and having good hearts how can you utilize Islam with the problem of race relations in the context of America?


IWDM: We have strong feelings and strong beliefs that the idea of humanity in Islam for Muslims will not allow us to have any racism or to be racist. The clear teachings of Qur'an on the unity of man, the Words of God in the Qur'an say, God has made us tribes and nations so that we will get to know each other and be attracted to each other, and not despise each other. And the words of the Prophet himself, the prayers and the peace be on him, say, "There is no superiority of a white over a black or a black over a white or an Arab over a non Arab". These words of Qur'an and from our Prophet are very clear, and we do feel as people who have come from (racial) discrimination and have been rejected because of our color, Islam offers the American society a contribution of a special uniqueness when it comes to dealing with the issue of race and racism. We do feel that Islam has a real role in the American society for improving the situation for all people to live together in peace and be brothers and sisters of one great nation.


QUESTION: Why is it that the Muslim influence in America is not the same as the Jewish influence in the political sense? (Dr. Cornell answered the first part of this question, which we will carry, insha Allah.)


IWDM: In terms of being able to support one or the other of the major political parties, the Democrats or the Republicans, and if we favor one of these parties: As you know the Civil Rights Movement with the Democratic Party became the Party of African Americans or blacks. However, the Party that liberated or Emancipated the African Americans as you know was the Republican Party. The Democrats were also the Party of the segregationists, the people who were against us becoming free and against us becoming accepted in the society of America and integrated into this society. Those hard southern states were Democratic. So I don't have a loyalty to the Democratic Party without some loyalty also to the principles and the virtues of the Republican Party. I find in both parties that we have people who believe in family values and are people of principle and virtue and of human decency and who promote that more than they promote just opportunity to have work or to have jobs and to be integrated into society as equals.

Certain things come first with us. Human decency comes first. Then comes all the other support that we need from society that is possible. So we are not too pleased with the spirit of the Democratic Party right now. We will support good people who qualify and who convince us that they mean well and that their agenda is good for us and also good for all Americans — meaning the immigrant Muslims and the African American Muslims, all of the indigenous Muslims here. If we are convinced that they will work in our interest and will not treat us differently and will be fair by us, then we will support a Democratic. ticket or a Republican ticket. We are not committed to either one of the Parties right now. We are committed to the people who will be best for all Americans.


QUESTION: What about the influence of Muslims on U.S. Foreign Policy?


IWDM: We can also have small numbers and very good and wide influence. I am hopeful for indigenous Muslims, blacks or African Americans, and we are improving our relationship with the nationalists (Nationalized American citizens) from India and Pakistan and other places who live in Chicago and Los Angeles and in other cities. Our relationship and communication with them is improving, and we are getting involved more and more in the question of politics and what should be the role of Muslims in American politics. I am very hopeful. We are discussing the suffering people of Kashmir and Jammu and of other parts of the world, especially in Palestine (Israel). I do believe that the Muslim influence can be felt and that we will have some influence on foreign policy.


QUESTION: In the black Muslim Community please comment on how women are doing. Are they anywhere in the leadership? How articulate are they? How are they fairing and competing with the rest of the American women?


IWDM: Our attraction to Islam because of our situation in America is such that we were rejected by the American society at one time. So we find that our women and our men are almost equally enthusiastic about asserting their dignity as human beings. We don't see that there is any real problem of discrimination or different treatment for women when it comes to being actively involved with politics and business.

Our sisters are very aggressive, and we find that they rise to top positions in our community. The sister who is editor of our paper that is nationally distributed and has some foreign distribution, is Ayesha K. Mustafaa, who is very intelligent and capable. We don't see her firstly as a woman, we see her as a great figure in the African American Muslim community and a great woman for all American people. She is very vocal on issues of human rights and respect for women. I can cite to you a number of persons who have succeeded in our community who are women and who are in top positions. We don't have that problem, and thank God for that.

(Note: We will be preparing the responses that Professor Cornell of Duke University gave to many of these same questions and to other questions for our Muslim Journal readers.)