(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal (4-25-03)
Bridges TV Interviews Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(On Thurs., April 4, 2003, Bridges TV requested the following interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Bridges questions were presented to Imam Mohammed by his Scheduler (and daughter), Sis. Laila Muhammad, at the Muslim Journal offices.)
Q: There are some schools of thought discourage music in Islam, while others say it's OK. What is your opinion on showing Muslim Music Videos on Bridges TV and why?
IWDM: I understand that Muslim nations have their different cultures and their cultures differ from one to another. I recall being in Cairo, Egypt, and I've seen their culture there, and I have seen their love for music. Most of the nations love music. The one that we expect to be the strictest of all is Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia has its culture, and Saudi Arabia has its music.
I understand that we should always be decent and always show decent behavior and be modest. So much of the music we have in our mixed or plural society here would not be acceptable. But I'm sure Bridges TV would select music that would be respecting this spirit and moral decency of Islam.
Q: You are a big supporter of Bridges TV. What is your rationale behind supporting such a project?
IWDM: Bridges TV, first of all, we don't have a network that serves all Muslims. We only have ethnic TV. We need a TV station that will serve all Muslims, and Bridges TV is about that serving all Muslims and not planning its programs for one group or for the taste of one group, but for all of us. And we need it very badly.
Q: There are many Muslim women who wear hijab. Many more Muslim women do not wear hijab. How should women be shown on Bridges TV?
IWDM: Bridges TV, I would think, should want the true picture of all of us to be shown, since Bridges TV will be representing Muslims of America and Muslims of the world all of us. I have no problem with women wearing hijab. Some of us think of hijab as wearing a veil. And I think most of us think of hijab as a head covering.
The head covering is very respectable, and I think most of the sisters would want to be seen with a head covering. I don't think that we should be so rigid, as we have the old saying: You sneeze at a gnat and swallow a camel. So we don't want to be so rigid that we leave out those sisters who are not always seen with a head covering.
Islam wants us to choose the best. Allah, G-d, wants us to choose the best. And Muhammed demonstrated that. We always should choose the best and support the best, but we shouldn't make small things equal to big things.
Q: Are women not allowed to hold leadership positions in Islam? And if not, why is that not encouraged by our leaders?
IWDM: We know that women in Islamic countries and nations have the freedom to rise to be a head of state. It hasn't happened for most of the Islamic nations, but we know that women have gradually been coming forward all over the world not just in America. Women all over the world are coming into focus more and more, and Islam accepts the equality of women in terms of their intellect, their brains and in term of their moral nature.
So if you educate women, as Muhammed taught us to educate the females; he said that any father who would educate two daughters would earn the Paradise. This essentially says also that we have equality in Islam. Because if you have equal education, you are going to have equality of the sexes, and that is what Islam wants.
Q: What is your short term and long term hope for this American Muslim television channel?
IWDM: I expect and hope that Bridges TV channel will be supported by all of us, because it is for all of us. It is for native Americans or indigenous Americans, like myself, but it is for all ethnic groups in America. It is for all the languages; we speak
different languages. And it is going to serve us and our interest.
My hope is that all of us are going to pitch in and also support the program.
Q: What is your message to your Imams towards supporting the Bridges TV Project? Specifically, what would you like them to do?
IWDM; Our Imams are mostly poor but rich in another sense. While we are not strong in business as a people in America, we are known to be disciplined and to be enthusiastic, to support a cause and give it all we've got. Some of us have some money; we hide it sometimes, but some do have money.
My hope is that all of us will contribute financially to Bridges TV, and my hope is that we will take a full interest in it and want to have our input and also have our community interest on these programs. And we want to show that we are "One Muslim." We are not divided, when it comes to believing in G-d and believing in His Messenger, the prayers and peace be on him.
We are one religious community Ummatun Wahidah, one religious society of the world. I hope they will show that and be eager to join Bridges TV.
Q: What is your message to immigrant Muslims regarding Bridges TV?
IWDM: For Bridges TV, I know how sensitive all of us are not just those who recently migrated and became citizens of the United States. All of us are sensitive in this country. We live in a very peculiar country. It is peculiar because of its nature.
The United States of America is the most accommodating nation I know. And this means trouble as well as something for us to feel good about. It is trouble for us, not only for Muslims, it is trouble also for Christians and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus, for all who have their own values.
This society accommodates us to live and establish our own life, as long as we support the Nation, the government or order of the society. We don't have to be the same. We can be different. We don't even have to be good behaving; we can be bad behaving. But we pay the price, if we break the law.
Understand that our moral standards and our principles differ from most of these other groups who are in the society. And the worst problem we have is the freedom that is given to people to be indecent and to behave unbecoming for any G-d fearing person. This is tolerated not only by us but also by good Christians and many religions in this country.
This is a country of many religions and of many nations and many people. So
I think it would lighten the burden on us and soften the blow to our moral senses, if we would understand the peculiar nature of the United States of America.
Here we have the freedom to compete. We have Christian communities that are liquor free. We want halal Muslim communities. We have the freedom here. Let's not look at what we have to face as a challenge to our moral life, but let us look at the opportunity we have to make a moral model of our life in the United States of America.
So let us be free as Christians are. Let us try to have halal neighborhoods. I think that will serve us all well, and I hope that we will not be frightened by this complex and very peculiar society we live in.
Q: What was your rationale to merge the Nation of Islam into mainstream Islam? Why do many immigrant Muslims still think that African American Muslims are part of the Nation?
IWDM: My interest was that of a Muslim following Muhammed the Prophet (SAW). He did not establish Islam for any particular race. He didn't establish it for any particular nation. Islam is the religion for all people and for all nations. Our nation is an inclusive nation of all races, all ethnicities, and we should understand that.
My spirit was to bring our people from Black Nationalism or Black thought to universality in Islam. I had to do it. I was compelled to do it. If you perceive Islam correctly, then you are compelled to come out of nationalism in Islam and have Islam free for all and supportive of all good people and all good establishments.
Bridges TV, I thank you for the opportunity to reply to these questions, to have this interview. And I wish you the best. We are with you. We are your brothers. And I intend to help promote financial support as well for Bridges TV.
Thank you very much. As-Salaam-Alaikum.