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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal

1987-June / July

Progressions Magazine

Freedom American Style

Imam W. Deen Mohammed

Today, many Americans dread the growth of the big cities. There are new plans for community life in America that's going to do away with the order of the cities that we see today. Meanwhile, look at how heavily the African-Americans are populating these big cities. Some of them are populated with such a large percentage of African-Americans, they will not tell you the truth about the size of the population. In Chicago, for instance, you can drive for miles and you will see nothing but African-Americans; nevertheless, they only represent a market of consumers. They are not contributing to the development and design of the city. They have little or nothing to do with planning the policy or future for the city. They account very little for the tax base. They are not the producers. They are nothing more than a market of consumers.

This market is not only the African-Americans; it is the majority of people in the larger cities. Television informs you about the products of the people who own the market The movies you watch, the soap operas you look at are all planned to sensitize you to buy the products of the market owner. You have on television the game shows and other programs. Sometimes good people get in a good program to help people's lives, but most of television is geared to the market owners and producers.

You can't strengthen your family because the market has your whole life. You feel that you have to buy those products they show you. You feel that you must have the new stove, the television set, the plush home. How are we going to gel together? To change the spirit of the African-American people will require a powerful revolution or some strong people to come forward and stay on the case. We will not get anywhere until we have a select group of people to build African-American leadership, not in just one area of our concern, but in every important area of concern.


Must Take Control

When a person in our circumstances can receive help from other than an African-American, such competition is good. It should make our people look at them and say, "Hey, I can do this job, and I can do it better." In time we will be able to take over our own concerns to better our situation. But what we really need are people who identify with our problem and want to help us move forward. They don't all have to be African-Americans, but they must have an interest in our concerns, and work with us for our good future.

I don't want to alarm anybody or make people think that the African-Americans situation is any worse now that it was in the past, but there are some concerns. Speaking on the situation of the American Muslims, I believe that when we study the past five years or so, it is apparent that we are doing better. Concerning non-Muslims or the hard working neglected masses of America, the direction they were moving spiritually, seven, eight or even ten years ago was frightening. It was frightening because I could see so many people happily going to hell. But in the last four or maybe five years there has been a change. There are now more serious-minded people making themselves; their position and commitment known. Such people are on the side of morality for strong families and aggressive community life.

The past few years has not brought about a complete change for the better; after all, we still see and hear about the arise in abuses of family life, increases in teenage pregnancies, crime, and drug abuse. There are still some very sad things that we must consider, but once the people's spirits change, there is hope. I believe that Americans, and especially African-Americans, are in a better situation today then they were a few years ago. There is yet a lot be done, and many fail to see the value or the benefit of moral preaching.

Many people don't see very much value in an effort to awaken the moral conscience of the people. They would rather give their attention or support to some political or economic movements. Though I am concerned for all Americans, I am mainly addressing the African-American situation because more African-Americans are dependent on outside circumstances for their life support than other ethnic groups. But I am still including the poor masses of America who are in the same situation, such as the many Hispanic* and other ethnic groups where poverty exists as it exists for African-Americans.

I realize that other groups have a determination to manage their lives better—particularly towards improving their financial situation, even if it means suffering a long time. Other ethnic groups are willing to put out a lot of energy to get a little in return. We must still develop this kind of determination among the African-Americans. And I believe that I can best help by sharing the information and observations that seem to offer some answers or point out some direction for a better life.


America: Experimental Laboratory

African-American people are not aware of the reality for them as American citizens. They have given so much of their mind and spirit to the civil rights struggle in defending their equal human worth in a society that once enslaved, segregated, utilized and rejected them even after the laws have been changed, too much energy is still spent on race issues. This is due to past conditioning throughout our past We still have not put ourselves in a situation to take advantage of real opportunities in America; for wherever there is freedom, there is always opportunity.

We are free to go out and seek employment, to sit in our homes and think our way out of our situation, or to go outside and try to start a business or start a movement. We are free to do these things, but there is little spirit in the poor people of America for anything other than immediate pleasures. Most African-Americans are taken away from the more serious concerns by the invitation to enjoy immediate pleasure. Such pleasures can be either a party, a dance, a celebration or whatever, and most of our people will rush to these things if they offer immediate pleasure.

Mr. Zbigniew Brezinski, former advisor to President Jimmy Carter, authored a book in which he describes America as the social laboratory of the world. Mr. Brezinski did not say this to put America down. He said this because he felt it was an observation that needed to be pointed out, and he defends it with subsequent statements he makes in his book. Years before I read his book I recognized something very peculiar about America's freedom. I observed what appeared to be a kind of contradiction. But, when we see its purpose, then we don't see it as a contradiction. For most people, it seems a terrible contradiction, and this keeps the lives of most people in turmoil. They are being torn apart by their spirit, by their mind, and by their own sensitivities.

In America we are free. However, being free in America is not the same as being free in an undeveloped land or primitive society. America's freedom is very difficult. At times we enjoy a season of opportunity, but the freedom that brings the season of opportunity will eventually lake it away. Just as there was freedom and opportunity to create that good season, there is also freedom and opportunity to take it away and bring in something better or worse. We must understand that America and its kind of freedom really began as an experiment. It started as an experiment to see just how far freedom can be taken before a new order has to be brought in.

When I was a child, Americans didn't believe that freedom in America meant the freedom to do the degrading and shameful things the public and the media shows us today. If you had told me when I was a child that such things would happen in the future, I would not have believed them. I would have said, '"No, they will have to overthrow the government first." I would not have believed that people would be able to do any perverted and shameful thing and receive approval or at least sanction in the name of freedom from educated people, professional people, great institutions and the great media.


Destructive Culture

We have come to a time when the culture that we call American culture is rotten, poison through and through. In fact, I think that those who describe American culture as a drug culture, are really being very mild America's culture is now a sick and perverted culture. It is a blind and self-destructive culture that turns the destructive forces inward and destroys the best that is in the American life. So, the best way to survive in America today is to go against America's cultural atmosphere. If you are not against it, you will be
destroyed by it But, that is freedom in America—that is freedom, "American Style." The purpose of the great experiment has been to determine just how much freedom can be allowed, and just what will happen if people are left lo do whatever they want.

Just a few years ago, people didn't think that equal rights meant equal rights for gays. At that time Americans could have accepted equal rights for women because that is natural. I realize that this may be offensive to some people, but I don't hate anyone because he or she is gay. I just don't see their way of life as being normal. I have been trained to believe that what is normal is that which is established in nature, and it is not established in nature that the human being is homosexual. Nature has established that the human being is male and female. Although there may be an occasional development or presence of homosexuality, that is not the norm. And if it is not the norm in nature, it is unnatural.

The new way of thinking today claims, "Anything that happens is natural," That is not the way I was brought up, nor the education I received when I was young. We were taught to judge whatever normally occurs in nature to be natural, and the accidents or deviations of nature to be unnatural. That is how I was brought up, and I am going to hold onto that kind of thinking even if it kills me. I prefer to die that way. I must say again that I do not hate gays. In fact, I sympathize with them. It's a wonder we do not have more gays when we consider the way masculinity is treated in this society.


Family Life Destroyed

I do believe that America is the great experiment or lab for the whole world. I believe that everything is tried here so that it will not have to be died elsewhere. You can go all over the world, to the four quarters of Africa, Europe, the Middle East or anywhere, and you will find social and family life in a better condition than here in America, Family life is in its worst condition in America. In fact, there is hardly any family life for the majority of the poor African-Americans. Can you really call it family life when there is no longer a parent-child relationship? Children are behaving any way (hey want, completely disregarding the parent and other members of the family. They are being taken in different directions, coming in at all times of the day or night. A great deal of the time, parents and children don't even see each other. They spend most of their time outside of the family with strangers or with other associates. Even when they are at home, they give their time to television or to record playing or to some other interest; not finding time for each other. You cannot call that family, but that is the situation in most African-American homes.

There is something else that we must understand about America: it offers freedom to everything, America has what's called a "free market," meaning that if anyone has money or a business idea and they see a public opportunity to develop a market, they're free lo do so. It doesn't matter if they intend to sell something that is destructive or will kill those who purchase it. In America's free market, anyone is free to do that. The great drug problem we're having today is proof of this. Drugs are killing both innocent and guilty people, making slaves of people, and it's been doing so for a long time. The problem has now reached epidemic proportions, but drugs are still sold all over the United States. If this country really wanted to stop or outlaw drugs, it could do so.


African-American Circumstances

How is the African-American going to progress with family life? How is the African-American going to progress with business life? As a people, African-Americans are without business life. The Japanese, the Jews and other groups have a business life in America, but as a group, African-Americans do not. Of course there are a few African-Americans with businesses, but as a people, we are without a business life. If we are going to make progress toward establishing business life for African-Americans we should take these observations very serious. We didn't come to America on our own as other groups did. We were brought to this country. We must understand that when you go somewhere, you are in a different situation than when you have been taken somewhere.

When you are taken somewhere, you do not have the inclination to go there, nor do you have a map of the place where you are being taken. Those who lake you there have the map and the information on the place where you are being taken. We were brought to this country as slaves. We had no map or information. We were just placed here, and from that situation of slavery we began to try and understand the circumstances we found ourselves in. Gradually we were freed to study America, to study the American ideas. But, let me tell you, we started with a disadvantage because we were brought here.

When we study America today, we are still studying it from that slave situation. We are studying it as people disadvantaged in America, with Negro or black man or African-American sensitivities. Let's take a person who came here from Spain, Ireland, Korea or somewhere else. That person doesn't involve race or ethnicity in his study of America before coming here. He just wants to get whatever he came for. He might be seeking a better job opportunity or to take advantage of the great schools. Whatever his aim, he sees a great opportunity to come and grow with America. He comes to America because it offers him an opportunity for what he wants to do with his life.

For the African-American, the situation was quite different. We started off pleading for freedom from chattel slavery. After being freed from slavery, we began to plead for just treatment; later for equal opportunity and then preferential treatment, justified on the basis of what had been taken away from us by centuries of slavery and deprivation in America. We've had to ask for equal opportunity and preferential treatment, and we have been conditioned by that. Thus, we are not in the same position of the new comer.

People can be tied up emotionally. They can be so tied up in hurt and grief to the extent that their efforts will be weak, making it easy for them to be defeated. If you can lie people up with the weight of their emotions, their hurt and grief will weaken their ability to compete. That is the state of the African-American people. Conditioned by the past to be emotionally wounded, raw and distant. We carry to many hurts and grievances to get
out and compete with people and do a good job. We need to understand our peculiar situation and its peculiar kind of freedom. And the only way I know how to explain this is to say that America is just a place to come and compete.


False Progress

America does not guarantee you a protected life, a moral life, a social life or economic success. Look at how much money the Government spent to bring about racial change. The Federal Government used its great power and financial resources in an effort to bring about racial change and uplift-menu Billions of dollars have been spent for this purpose, Yet we now are told in official places and official reports that we are now more economically unstable as a people than we were before those great antipoverty programs were put into effect.   Shouldn't this tell us that we cannot depend on Big Papa in the Whitehouse, the Federal Government or outside forces and factors working to take care of us? We can't depend on them anymore to make a way for us to have a decent or equally enjoyable life with other ethnic groups in this country.

During the lime of reconstruction, Blacks held great political positions in the South. It appeared for a time as though Blacks were over Whiles in the South. Under the presence of Northern troops and the Government imposing that kind of situation on the Whites of the South, African-Americans enjoyed such of progress.

We are now in a different lime wherein we seem lo have made great progress during the great social programs of President Kennedy and President Johnson. It looked as if we were moving forward and upward, making a lot of progress, when really we were being taken care of; it was another forced situation. When the majority of American people came against it, America decided not to tolerate it any longer. Therefore, that form of progress is gone. We should be fed up with requiring from America an abnormal amount of assistance. When I say "abnormal amount of assistance," I'm referring to greater assistance than other ethnic groups are receiving.

Other ethnic groups don't come to America asking for all the help African-Americans demand. We must forget about slavery, which is behind us, If we want to remember slavery, we must remember it in our own private form and not bring it out in the public. It's not necessary for us to tell America that we were made slaves or that we were discriminated against. America knows its history. What we should be talking about are those things holding us back from being as effective at progress as other ethnic groups. We should be talking about rejecting excessive help from other people; not only the American Government, but from rich Arabs or any other people.


Criminally Dependent

The first thing African-Americans need to work on rejecting is help from criminal elements. When we do, God will bless us with more. Our people depend on too much help from crime. Even people who pretend to be living good lives as citizens buy stolen goods. They are helping crime in many ways. We need to reject excessive help from the Federal Government, from local government, from Arabs or anybody else that seems to be in a good situation to help us. We must stop holding out our hands to other people and see what we can do for ourselves, Thai's the courage and the spirit of our former ancestors.

The culture of a people is actually their very life's breath. When their culture becomes poisoned, the breath of life is poisoned for them. How is it possible for some poor people to live in America and keep the good spirit, while others get their spirit caught up in the destructive winds of this uncertain culture we call American culture? Those people who retain the good spirit are like the man who goes bio outer space from Earth to visit another planet or another object He knows the air out there is not his air, so he wears a space suit and carries his air with him. He shields himself from whatever is out there. He is not going to breathe whatever is out there. The same requirement exists on this Earth regarding cultural atmospheres. If you breathe the open air of America's sick culture, you are going to die as a human being, as a social creature and you are going to die as an intelligent thinker. The idea of freedom is great and I will never give it up, but freedom "American Style", is terrible if you don't know and understand it.

Wealthy people invest in this country, producing job opportunities as well as other kinds of new opportunities for the poor. Eventually, there are too many poor and not enough dollars; yet the process of freedom continues. People want more freedom, more opportunity and wealth in their lives. The industrialist* the job makers, have this burden on them. They are constantly trying to keep this growing mass of poor people pacified. They keep raising salaries, and the average person thinks they are doing better. They are not aware of the other changes taking place at the same time that causes their situation to remain almost the same.


The Spiritually Enslaved

There is an Arabic poem that I learned as a young man [hat goes along with my spirit. It is about a caged bird that sings, and the song goes. "A cage is not my natural habitat. The open plains were made for me, and I will never accept a cage though it be made of solid gold" This poem is descriptive of the kind of spirit we need if we are to remain alive today. Those without this kind of spirit are dead.

Most African-Americans will accept a golden cage. In fact, they are asking America for a golden cage, and it doesn't necessarily have to be gold. It can be brass or silver, and in some cases it can even be a casket if it looks good. Such people will say, "Give me a soft carpet on the bottom of my cage, a color TV and a Rolls Royce to run around within my cage's perimeter."

If we have come to that kind of state, then understand this: though we are physically free, we are still spiritually enslaved. Real freedom will come to us only when we are spiritually free. Spiritual freedom doesn't mean being happy. Being spiritually free means having a vision for your spirit. You should not allow your spirit to just go anywhere, in any direction or to accept any kind of circumstances. When you have that kind of control, then you are spiritually free. When you know what plan, what future idea, what future concept, what future place, what future community you want your spirit to go to, then you will be happy there.

When you know what situation will be good for your human spirit, and you start living to get to that situation, then you are spiritually free. But, as long as you just wane to know, "What will satisfy my flesh? What will rest the pain in my body, such as, food, clothing, shelter, rest, sex, etcetera", you do not need freedom anymore than a bushman in the zoo.

What situation will make my soul rest and feel that it's at home and has reached its good situation for my life? The bad spiritual or cultural influences are all around you.  You need to know how to turn that television to a different channel when they show you things that will shatter your life, disorientate your soul and destroy your mentality. You need the strength to turn the thing off when necessary, and wait until there is something decent to cultivate your life before you turn it on again.

This job is not going to be easy. We must identify our problem. We are in a difficult situation . We are in an open, destructive culture. We must demand of ourselves to fight these negative cultural influences and push our lives forward just as though we are in physical combat. That is the kind of spirit and determination we need. America's destructive cultural influences affect your life just as much as when physically threatened. In AM slam, we do not see the greatest of all losses in our physical body. The greatest loss is the precious life that God intended to be in our bodies. If destructive influences threaten the precious life that God intended to be in my body—to take my body out of form; make it ugly, make it poison, make it corrupt, make it weak, that is a greater threat than a physical threat. God says in the Holy Qur'an, "And surely persecution is worst than slaughter." If a culture denies people the opportunity for their body to grow into the excellent life that God has intended, then that is worst than the outright killing of people.


Equal Knowledge Necessary

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad once said, "Never will you be equal to the Whiteman until you have equal knowledge." Now there was a man speaking who did not even receive a formal education. Foolish people reject what they failed to gel in life. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad didn't get a higher education. However he didn't reject education because he did not receive one. He could have told his people, "Don't go to school. We don't want this knowledge; it is poison," Some of our black leaders discourage intellectual pursuits because they fear their supporters will become smarter than they.

Being equal with the Whiteman does not mean that we must have as many people as the Whiteman in whatever we strive to do. Equal knowledge means equal knowledge of your circumstances. The Whiteman has knowledge of his circumstances. When you have equal knowledge of your circumstances, you become as aware of your circumstances as the Whiteman. Believe me, that will put us in an equal situation.

Until we become aware of our circumstances, we are in the dark in America. A German writer wrote about the suffering of our people; their thirst for freedom and how changes were coming. He lilted the book, "The People Who Walk in Darkness Has Seen A Great Light." He did not mean the light of the dark in the Christian Gospel. He was alluding to what most of us cannot understand—the light of freedom. We were a people who had walked through the darkness of slavery, of oppression, feeling ourselves inferior, but we had grown to thirst for freedom to such a degree that we were demanding it. This man saw it as a "Great Light."

We will see an even greater light when we study America and its effects on our life as free people. When we study the nature of freedom, American style, we find that its strength can change. A moral gain comes, a right or a belief can be protected today and be dropped tomorrow. A people can be regarded as precious in the eyes of the Nation, deserving of all the help they can give today, yet that same regard can be dropped tomorrow. That's the nature of America's kind of freedom.

I love freedom, and I appreciate it I'm not putting it down, but freedom "American style" puts you at a greater risk than freedom among primitive men in the jungle.