(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal 7-15-05 to 8-12-05)
Imam Mohammed Speaks on the Annual Islamic Convention
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this interview on Sun., July 26, 2005, at the offices of The Mosque Cares. He gives reflections on the aims and purpose for having an Annual Islam Convention.)
With G-d's Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer. We begin always recognizing G-d and His Messenger Muhammed, His Messenger of the Qur'an, the Last Book revealed.
He is the one that G-d describes in this Holy Book as a mercy to all the worlds. His sayings have been preserved in what we call the Hadiths, the reporting on the life of Muhammed and important things that he said and did.
One of those sayings goes as follows: "You will never enter the Garden of Paradise until you have Faith. And you will never have Faith, until you practice loving one another."
Today, in the world we have Christians and Muslims struggling to get closer and closer to one another, as in the organization that I am a member of and president of, WCRP - World Conference of Religions for Peace.
We believe that if we keep the right picture, it will help heal the sickness in our society. Most of the public belongs to one of the major religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Jains and many others.
These religions all want the same thing, if we understand it. And that is a good life for human beings. So we have the same object for the public - a public that is healthy and at peace and in a good way to progress in their individual lives and in their special interest.
This is the time for us to express the best that we have in our religion and speak to this need in the world to have people recognize each other, because they live in too close of confines now.
We can't ignore each other any more. We have to present the best that we have in our religion and present it to the world's eye, so that we can support each other and not ignorantly work against each other. It is ignorance that causes us to work against each other, more than any other thing.
Muhammed the Prophet pressed us, as G-d has pressed him, concerning the respect and treatment we should give neighbors and the value of the neighbor.
He said that G-d pressed him so much about his neighbor, till he thought his neighbor would inherit him. Now if the neighbor inherited the Prophet, that means the Muslims won't have him any more.
That is happening to a small degree, when we meet in Rome with the Focolare and others. When we meet with these high level people, we get the feeling that the more educated ones are studying our religion to get the beauty of our religion, more so than our own leaders are doing on the whole.
We should not want that non-Muslims inherit our Prophet and leave us without a Prophet. We should be concerned about our neighbor.
Who is your neighbor today, when we have a One World Order, in terms of transportation. In economics, it is a One World Order. In television and radio, there is One World.
The United Nations is just a picture, but we must recognize the works that are going on in economics and also socially to a big degree. We may also say politically, for the international authority is growing bigger and bigger and the national authority is growing smaller and smaller.
We should understand this as our Prophet told us, that Allah created the world to bring us together, to draw all people together. Now we see the answer to that.
We don't have to guess at what that means any more. The material interests have brought us together to be seen as one world - mainly in transportation, communication and economics.
We have to live with one another and live side by side as nations and work together as members of a One World Order. The Prophet said, "Be careful how you treat your neighbor."
To be in a situation to practice this love of our Prophet, we have to regard every human being on this earth as our neighbor, and G-d brought that about.
Getting to the Convention we are having for 2005, I hope this spirit will be the spirit of our Convention - the spirit to work together and the spirit to recognize the rights of all people and economic justice and respect for all nations.
We hope this is the message of this Convention and will be working to give this message. But the unity of mankind in Islam is not without importance on individual rights and individual honor.
G-d says, "We have given honor and prescribed honor in the nature of every human person, for every child of Adam." Individual respect for the person that G-d made is very important.
And G-d wants us to know that we are entitled to our distinctions.
G-d wants us to know that we are entitled to our distinctions, given to us as a race or as a tribe. G-d wants us to know that He has made us one in the same in terms of our human essence. But He also has created the world to make us different. And He wants us to respect these differences and to build upon the excellence of our own individuality.
Every individual should be encouraged to build upon that excellence and grow more beautiful and more valuable to your families and to your neighbors and to your communities.
We are Muslim, a religious body, and G-d wants us to grow upon the excellence of our religious body or religious group, as a religious people. So our Convention should recognize this, that we are there to celebrate the excellence of the human person - that's the individual. And we are there to promote the excellence of the Muslim community.
We won't be hearing from a lot of outsiders. It is good to hear from them every now and then and for the Mayor to welcome our Convention into the City. But outside of that, we are not planning to hear from outsiders.
We had planned to have Christian leaders address our Convention, but I made a big mistake. I was in the church speaking and the assistant to the Minister where we were got up and made comments. And I am thinking that we were in an AME Church, but we were not.
I was very interested in having someone from the AME Church come and address our Convention, because it is my understanding that they are the first African American Church.
They were forced to have their own church, because the segregated churches would not treat them equal. They have kept to their own church and to the spirit to advance the African American people in spirit, in morals and in society.
The AME Church has an interest very much similar to the one I inherited from the Nation of Islam and the Hon. Elijah Muhammad's leadership. So we wanted them there, but they will not be at the Convention.
So no church will be addressing the Convention. We regret the disappointment to the Church that was coming, but we don't want to present something that will not be in our plans or in our best interest.
It is not in our best interest, because the Convention is not to give attention to those who just represent themselves but don't represent a closeness with us. The AME Church would represent a closeness to us.
We also expect to hear more from the youngsters. The young leaders will have a big role in the 2005 Convention. We have the president of the National Young Adults Muslim youth organization. He has organized professionally trained Muslim brothers and sisters who will be accepting more responsibility.
They really will be sharing responsibility for organizing the Convention and seeing that it is a success. The role of the Muslim youth will be very strong in the upcoming Convention, and I think it is time to do that.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad had Malcolm X to come out of prison as a young man and become a very strong and powerful spokesman for the Nation of Islam. And we know that as a result of that, just one young man, the production of the Nation of Islam just began to multiply and multiply. We grew in numbers and productivity.
I'm expecting that the same thing is going to happen, when we turn a lot of the responsibility that we old veterans have over to the young people, and let them do a good job for us.
We are looking for a very good and successful Convention, and we are looking to a Convention that will show us in our own picture and inform the members who travel to the sites. So when they go back home, they will be happy and relieved. They will feel refreshed and have first hand knowledge of what we are doing as a community and where we are going.
They will see the productive things and where things are happening, as in Atlanta and other places where material growth is evident. We will bring that information to the members, and also where we are going ahead with CPC/ComTrust LLC, and our plan to strengthen our educational system with the Clara Muhammad Schools.
To bring this news to them is the purpose of the Convention. It is to bring those who are scattered all around together in one place in the spirit of our community and to discuss the serious problems, if we face any. I don't think we face any serious problems.
The spirit of our community is beautiful.
I travel a lot. I've gone North, East, West and South. I will be going to Philadelphia again pretty soon for a speaking engagement at a university in Philadelphia.
And I've witnessed on all my trips a new spirit and new excitement in the following we call representing the interest of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. They also are the people representing the neglected neighborhoods of ours, neglected in business and neglected economically.
That is what I wanted to say, and in this meeting with the Muslim media get your assistance in getting this right message out to the people.
Q: Imam Mohammed, the theme for this year's Convention is what we call "a loaded theme." It reads: "Human Nature, Earth's Most Valuable Resource; To Our Moderates and Extremists..., Honor Cultural, Ethnic and Racial Distinctions. However, Salvation Resides in Our Human Accord. Human Nature, as Earth's Most Valuable Resource...." Could you elaborate on that for us?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes. Those who brought us from Africa to work the plantations understood that. And they capitalized on it. They knew our nature and got our nature under their control and made big dollars for them.
Q: In regards to our "Human Accord"?
IMAM MOHAMMED: We meet with members of many great religions. And there are many great religions and decent human beings on this planet earth.
The wife of the President during World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt, is in the records of history as being a pioneer for human rights.
What motivates a person like that, to want to see that human treatment is given around the world and where it isn't to see that it is given to their public?
What motivates a person like that? It is their perception of the human being in his common life and picture.
All of us come here as babies, and the babies cry in one language. And when they smile, they smile in one language. They laugh in one language. Sadness and joy are all one language.
So that tells us that we have a common core as humans. And with that core, if we are appreciative of it, if we value it, we won't become drug addicts without hating it. We won't do violence in the streets and do harm to others and ourselves without hating it.
We may be victims of that behavior, but if you keep the precious picture of what every human person is and that person is also exactly the same in every human person and you, that we all share — what we identify with or are saying is that "we are human."
And we are connected with one emotionality or emotional life or soul and also have the same intelligence. No one is born with a different intelligence; we all are born with human intelligence.
This is the precious core, and this is the accord that we want. We want people to be aware of that accord and respect it. And we want to preach and promote that interest - to preach it.
We can't leave society and just assume that people will come into the consciousness of it. You go to school and they educate you or teach you what society is. In elementary school and high school, when you come out of there, you are supposed to have a general or good knowledge of what society is.
We also should have a good knowledge in the public of what the human being is. If we can keep that knowledge in the public, we can keep more respect for human life in the public.
Q: Also Imam Mohammed, this is the 30th year of your leadership or 30th Anniversary since the passing of your father, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Will this play a part in the Convention?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, it will. There will be a recognition of the 30 years of my leadership. I also understand that they are going to give me a symbolic gift.
Q: I learned of your meeting with a young man in Philadelphia, and you were talking about him, Andrew James, a youth you want to bring to Chicago to participate in this Convention. Can you tell us a little more about him?
IMAM MOHAMMED: I met him at a high tech education facility in Philadelphia, founded or run by African Americans. Most are females and a few males are there with them. And they have a few non-African Americans working with them so beautifully. You don't see anything but peace and harmony with them working together.
I was excited, because they are using high tech computers and high tech methods to educate uneducated children. They can bring an uneducated child who dropped out of high school or even elementary school and expose him to their high tech environment and educate them. They become excited. I met many of the youngsters, and they are very excited.
The children perform on levels that are double where they normally would be. If he comes in on the 4th grade level, he now is performing at the 8th grade level. I was so impressed with that. And something came into the picture, while I was there, and it was this young man.
He came up to me and said, "Mr. Mohammed, may I make you aware of something, if you are not aware of it?" And I said, "Yes, do that." He said, "Are you aware of the murders here?" I said, "Yes, I have been informed of that." The host for the occasion had informed us of the high rate of murders on the streets of Philadelphia.
He said, "Well, I want to let you know that there are young Muslim youth on the streets killing Muslim youth." I said, "I didn't know that!" He said, "Yes, some of your people are killing each other."
One of the ladies then took over, who was hosting us, and began to tell us about his role at this facility and that the facility also addresses street and gang violence. And he had been very successful in addressing that. I was so impressed with this young man, Andrew James.
He asked, "Will you be willing to come to speak to us sometimes, the youth?" And I agreed. They have already given me a date to go back. But I was saying to myself, "I am much more interested in hearing what you have to say and you coming to speak to our youth, than I am in coming to speak to you all."
I finally invited him through Sis. Amatullah Rashad, who invited us to see that facility, and he accepted. So, insha Allah, Andrew James will address us. I am sure he is not going to bring us a message of violence, but will bring us a message of hope and what we can do to end some of the violence.
Q: At these Conventions, we have always had an emphasis on business - CPC, Graceline, Salaam Nutrition. Also this year, will there be any involvement of the Retail Center for which the groundbreaking was made for over in Markham?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, we hope to have some actual work started at that site before the Convention. So when the many come here for the Convention and come by CPC, although there may not be a function there, they will see that some things are going on.
They will come by and see the construction, and we will be bringing them the Convention report on our plans for construction in this area, the South West suburbs of Chicago.
Q: In thinking on the youth, in Marquette Park, the youth organization IMAN, had their "Taking It To The Street" event in the Park and had Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm and Betty Shabazz, there. I believe you met with her, and what were your impressions of her?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I saw her when she was a baby. We used to live in Philadelphia, which is close to New York, you know. And Minister Malcolm used to come with Betty, his wife, to Philadelphia occasionally. And I would go to New York occasionally, and it was mostly to see Minister Malcolm.
Attallah is their oldest daughter and was the only child at that time. And Laila was our only child at that time. I remember Laila and Attallah on the floor crawling around. And Ilyasah has grown up to be very attractive girl and very level headed. I can see Malcolm in her; she is tall like Malcolm.
Q: She said she was three months old when her father was killed. And her book is to close the gap, she says, of the public and the personal side of her father and mother.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I will have to get her book.
Q: Imam Mohammed, in closing, to discuss things that are just on our minds and that are coming out of the news, particularly African American issues. We see that 50 years after Emmett Till was killed, his murderers are brought to justice. And 40 years after the three Civil Rights workers were killed, their murderers are brought to justice.
What perspective do you put on this? Is it just OK that we still have justice, even though it is so slow? What are your words to the youth, who have to look at the slow wheels of justice?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: In our Holy Book, and it is in other Holy Books too, it says, "Justice is always coming." It may hit you all of a sudden, and then it may be delayed for a long time. But whenever you get it, for you it is suddenly.
Look at that man in the killing of Emmett Till, he lived to see 80 years. He is 80 years old. And now he has to face what he did, the horrible thing that he participated in, the murder of Emmett Till.
This is not only the message from man, but that is the Message from G-d. You do not escape. G-d can get you anytime.
The youth should not worry about their grievances against other people. We should be grieving over our own condition, more than anything else. That is what has me grieving. And we are killing each other. It is not the Whites killing us anymore. We are killing ourselves.
I would hope that the youth try to also address the human accord and bring themselves in line with the best human nature, to save their lives and their people.
Q: As some reach out to the Latino group, as a growing ethnic group, and here in Chicago, it has surpassed African Americans as the largest minority. Do you have any outreach concerns or issues in your plans, for the Latino community?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I tend to philosophize and take a lot of words. But how do we get our identity? We get our identity by creation, by natural life; we are bom human. And we get our identity by socialization.
African Americans were forced to socialize with nothing but African Americans for a long period of time in the history of America. So we got our identity when we were in slavery, and we got our identity when we were freed.
We got our identity as a people working to improve our human condition in a society that was discriminating against us and keeping us away from opportunities. We worked together.
That is what makes us have a strong identity. It is not the blackness. I am not as black as my youngest brother or my oldest son, who is black as a true description. And my daughter is much lighter than I am; she is almost white. So the color is not our real identity.
Our real identity comes from us sharing the good things that happen over generation after generation and the same bad things that happen over a period of generations upon generations.
What happened to Emmett Till left an indelible mark on me that can never be erased. I was marked inside, and many other African Americans were marked inside. We bear these same marks, the marks of pain, the marks also of happiness and jubilation. This is what makes us soul brothers and sisters.
The African American identity can be understood only as an identity in experiences that were trying to lift us up and trying to put us down. So Latino people have had a similar up and down. I don't have to go into their history and point out the suffering that they have experienced under other people, like we have.
I also think this is G-d's Plan, that we have now the Latino people -the Spanish speaking people - and us as neighbors, sharing the same areas in Chicago and other places. They live in their neighborhoods, but we border each other and have to run into each other often, daily almost. Everyday, I run into some Latino people.
We can't escape each other. And I have always had an interest in Latino people, because of my father. My father was critical of us as to how we would not stand up for ourselves, during the time that we had two laws in this country - one for Blacks and one for Whites.
Once he said, "Do you know Zapato (and he named another Indian leader) talked to our Black leaders and tried to show our Black leaders that we had a common cause with the Mexicans, the Spanish speaking people, and the Blacks? The so-called Negro had a common cause with them. And some of us befriended them, got with them and then betrayed them."
I don't know how true that story is. But someone gave it to my father, and he gave it to his audience. I was about 13 or 14 years old, when I heard that from my father. So I've felt a special kinship with Latino people ever since.
Since I have learned of them more as a grown man and have interacted with them and some of their leaders, I know it is a natural unity we should have with the Latinos or Spanish speaking people. It is a natural unity.
I was happy to see that Rev. Jesse Jackson and other African American leaders are recognizing that we should have some ties with the Latino people.
Conclusion: Thank you, Imam Mohammed. The Mosque Cares sponsored Annual Islamic Convention will be held in downtown Chicago, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on East Wacker Dr.