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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles


Muslim Journal

Imam Muhammad Answers Questions On Shiites, Terrorism And The Middle East

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


(Editor's note: Some of the questions in this interview with Imam W. Deen Muhammad are excerpted from a news conference the resident Imam of Masjid Elijah in Chicago, gave during a recent visit to Columbia,. S.C. Other questions were posed by Don Frierson. host of a talk show on WDPN-FM Radio in Columbia. Muslim Journal special writer Gladys Zarif, who teaches journalism and English at the University of South Carolina. Sumpter, also took part in the Columbia news conference at which Imam Muhammad appeared.)

QUES: What philosophical beliefs do you share with Shiite Muslims and how do you feel about this movement?

IWDM: All big religions — Judaism, Christianity, and for us, Al-Islam — have their unique personalities and their special kind of groups — sects within the religion. I don't know if it would be proper to call the Shiite a sect of Al-Islam. We believe in the same God, the same Holy Book, the same prophets, everything.

But the attention they give to blood relatives of Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. his nephew, All, who became a calipha after the Prophet, but not immediately after the Prophet — the attention that they give to that family tie is not good for our religion. It resembles, to me, something close to a belief in Jesus Christ as a special creature, a supernatural creature.

I think it has led them, too, to look at some of their mortal figures, their human figures, and regard them as having special powers — as super beings. I think it tends to take us away from the religion as it was introduced by Prophet Muhammad.

I do have real serious differences with them but 1 accept them as Muslims. They are Muslims and I feel that they are our brothers in the religion. I hope one day to see and meet with them.

I tried to go to Iran once but I failed. I hope one day to go and I would like to talk with their leaders, let them know what my concerns are. And who knows, maybe hearing from a black American who is sincere in his religion, they will see or recognize something they haven't before.

QUES: The recent hijacking of TWA flight 847 has cast renewed emphasis on Islam. What is your position in regards to Shiite fundamentalism? What impact has the hijacking had on Muslims in America?

IWDM: The hijacking brought into the mind and focus terrorism on the part of Muslim people. We are definitely against any injustice. It's not just fair that an oppressed people or anyone, no matter what they are subjected to, use innocent people to get relief. So, Muslims should reject that kind of strategy. We don't accept it and we condemn it as a terrorist kind of activity.

QUES: Specifically, what ia your position on Shiite fundamentalism, and if you did get a chance to go to Iran, what would you say to Ayatullah Khomeini?

IWDM: I've had a desire for a long time to go to Iran. In fact, when the first hostages were taken under President Carter's term, I expressed a desire to the State Department to go. I didn't think I could meet the Ayatullah Khomeini, himself, but if I could meet anyone close to him, 1 thought it would have been helpful to understand my concerns as an American and as a Muslim. That never happened. At one time, I was very close to Iran, but we weren't allowed to go in.

I still desire to go and talk with some of the leaders there. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Iranian people, and even for the Ayatullah Khomeini and much of what he represents.

But at the same time, the image of him in the world's eye is something that I can identify with. There are a lot of questions I would like to ask and I would like for Imam Khomeini and the leaders there to know our concerns as Muslims, and how what they do there affects us and burdens us in America. We are Americans and also Muslims.

QUES: It seems that all the great wars have been fought over religion, and of course religion is a part of what the situation is about in the Middle East now; do you find this ironic? What plans or proposals do you have to bring about peace in the Middle East?

IWDM: (laughter) Well - that's a big job. There are a lot of people working on it. I've met leaders from Islamic states, ambassadors here in America, who have expressed a desire to do everything they can. For many decades now a lot of sincere Muslims in political and governmental leadership have been desperate to make some contribution to relieving the situation there. It's a very complicated situation. When people believe that God has given them the right to something and they insist upon those rights and can't see the practical needs or look at the matter realistically, it's very different to reach people like that."

So you have to appeal to their sensitivity. I think we have Arabs with that special kind of sensitivity, Israelis with their special kind of sensitivities and whoever gets involved, the government or our President, they have their interest too.

But dealing with sensitivities is very difficult when people believe they have a Divine right to something.

Personally, I don't think Israelis or Arabs should bring that kind of idea into the picture, God gave all of us the right to be on Earth. I think that's fair enough. He's given us the right to our own way of life here on Earth. To me that's enough.

Is it politically right for the Israelis to claim authority and set themselves up as caretakers and supervisors over the land and people in the Middle East, people who themselves are natives there?

QUES: But don't the Israelis claim that the land is theirs by Divine right?

IWDM: Yes, the Israelis claim that God gave them that land. What I'm saying is that that is an argument which shouldn't be admitted into that situation at all. I think the issue can be settled when the Israelis can get rid of that kind of sensitivity and not claim any divine right to the land, and give everybody their due right — that was the Palestinians' homeland — and the Palestinians can also look at the Israelis, who have been there for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, and say to each other that you have a right to be here.

But this political desire and military machinery has lo go. Then I think the people could come together and agree on living with each other and coming under a form that would allow all of them freedom and opportunity.

The Zionist militarist organization, which desires to build a power base in the Middle East, complicates the situation. Those who want to dominate the land are not sincere when they say all they want is their land. What they really want is to dominate the land. They feel they are special people and feel they are more qualified to be responsible for the Middle East than the Arabs are. who are in the great majority.

QUES: How far should one go to relieve themselves of oppression? Some feel, that everything else failing, terrorism is a justifiable means of relieving oneself of oppression.

IWDM: There's a point to desperation that can be reached. For example, if my apartment floods and I jump out the window, somebody will say he's crazy. But if my apartment catches on fire and I jump out the window, they won't say I'm crazy. So, a situation can become so serious and desperate that the action can be respected. 1 think a lot of what we call terrorism on the part of Palestinians, on the part of Arabs, can be respected. However, I condemn the taking of an innocent party's life, or depriving an innocent party of their convenience, their freedom, for the sake of advancing your cause against another party that's your enemy.

QUES: What forms of terrorism? Are you talking about striking against military bases, that kind of thing?

IWDM: I'm not a military man myself. But from what I can see, there's no opportunity for these weaker fighting groups, like the Palestinians, except by strike and run, and chose your target wherever you can find it — a guerrilla kind of warfare. I don't think there's an opportunity for them to fight any other way than that. But again, I'm not an authority in that