Imam W. Deen Mohammed Speaks on the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Min. Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam: Part 1
(The following interview conducted by Nathaniel Omar with Imam W. Deen Mohammed took place at the Office of the Muslim Journal on Thurs., Jan. 6, 2000.)
NO: As-Salaam-Alaikum, Brother Imam.
IWDM: Wa-Alaikum As-Salaam.
NO: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you about some of these recent occurrences. At a recent news conference, Min. Louis Farrakhan announced his recovery from a bout with cancer. Have you had any contact with Min. Farrakhan concerning his health?
IWDM: No, not directly. I sent correspondence to him congratulating him on his major recovery. I understand that he is saying that he is 85 percent healed.
So we are thanking Allah for his improvement and pray that he continues to improve, until there are no more health problems for him. We congratulate the doctors and all who worked with him for the success that he has had.
NO: At this news conference, Min. Farrakhan also announced conceptual changes, whereby he apologized for his past racial statements and philosophy. Do you think that these changes improve the chance for unity between the Nation of Islam and the Muslim American Society?
IWDM: Yes. In fact, we were already feeling a sense of a fraternal bond with Min. Farrakhan and the members of the Nation of Islam under his leadership, I attended the Jumuah Service last year at MCC (Muslim Community Center), and I arrived too late to join them (NOI) in prayer but I joined them in Du'a Prayers.
Ever since then, I have felt that there is no more separation; we are one Muslim community. We are one with the International Muslims of the world.
I was convinced of this when he had his followers observe the Jumuah Prayers. And in this new announcement, he has given more details and this makes it very comfortable for us to join him in whatever he is doing for the betterment of this society, especially for the correct projection of Islam.
NO: How do you perceive the Minister's role of importance in the Muslim community and the African-American community? Would you speak on that?
IWDM: Min. Farrakhan is a very popular leader. He has been for all these years I have known him to be a leader. When I was there, he was always an electrifying speaker, articulate with natural abilities. A person like that is very valuable to the Muslim community of Chicago and to the United States.
He is also a very valuable spokesperson for the disadvantaged and lost people. There are many of us still lost, spiritually lost. So Min. Farrakhan is very important as a leader in Chicago and in the United States.
NO: What is your message to your supporters in the Muslim American Society, and similarly, your message to Min. Farrakhan's followers in the Nation of Islam concerning the recent changes? What is your hope for the two communities, as we go into the Year 2000?
IWDM: My message is that we have done what we thought we had to do to go forward as Muslims in the right mind and in the right spirit. It took us many years to get to where we are, and .that is in unity with Muslims all around the world.
We follow the Qur'an, the Word of G-d, and Muhammed the Messenger and Servant of G-d (Peace Be Upon Him). It has taken us many years to get to where we are, and we have had patience with our early thinking. It was always my belief that the majority of followers of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad were innocent people. They believed that the concept of Islam that they had was correct.
So if people are innocent, you should not just abruptly bring them around to the truth. If you think that will upset the mind, cause mental pain, you should consider their situation and try to bring them safely along the way to where they should be.
That is what I have tried to do in the Name of G-d, with the help of prayer and the help of my brothers and sisters, not only in the Temple of Islam.
Many Muslims who know me outside of America and the immigrant Muslims in America have prayed for our success. And with their prayers and our prayers, we have been successful.
So my message to Min. Farrakhan is that we are happy to know that the situation is better now, because of his recent stance. The situation has developed now for us to embrace each other and sit down together and support each other in all good works.
NO: I recall your trip to Savior's Day last year. Will you have a message for this Savior's Day and will you be there in person to give it to them?
IWDM: Yes, I plan to. I have been invited to join Min, Farrakhan, who will give the Address on Feb. 27, which will be on Sunday.-I plan to be there and join him and give my support and also to celebrate with hind, a big celebration, and I see it as a Savior's Day Celebration.
NO: You know how we are. If we find out you are going to be there, we will fill that place up.
IWDM: I am hoping we will; we should all be there. For a fact, we should all be there joining them on Feb. 27, hearing the major address given by Min, Farrakhan. I also intend to be at the Jumuah prayer.
Now it is possible that I will be asked to lead the prayer somewhere else. I may have to lead the prayer somewhere else and rush to the location and join them for the rest of the Jumuah time.
Also, he (Min. Farrakhan) listed several concerns and itemized them. I don't see myself having any difficulties with any of the concerns he itemized. I support his whole program for the Feb. 25-27 weekend.
His family day unity march, family day observation and celebration, I strongly support that. We need more awareness of our obligation as parents and of our obligation as adults in our communities. To support our neighborhoods and to support our families, even if we are single.
All of us should have strong interest in family, and we should be good supporters of the good life of family. Min. Farrakhan has taken a very good position to include family in a Celebration of the Family.
His words to me emphasized that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad's family has been a real value to the association of followers whom we both respect. He (the Hon. Elijah Muhammad) has been very valuable to the African American people in general.
I would say that we have to now recognize that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad has been very significant to the people of the City of Chicago and to the history of the City of Chicago.
The Chicago Magazine that I subscribe to, listed him among a hundred people who have had the most influence on the history of Chicago. The Sun Times recently conducted a poll on the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and he was among the hundred.
So looking at the Hon. Elijah Muhammad as a Muslim and a Servant of Justice - as he would say "Freedom, justice and equality"; the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, as a Muslim, has always told us we are growing into the Muslim we will be. He never told us we were the Muslims we were suppose to be. He said we are trying to be upright.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, as a fighter for freedom, justice and equality, knew his position. He could not defend an entry into the society of productive and responsible people, if his own people were not disciplined and responsible for their families and clean minded.
So he said: "What I am doing is cleaning you up.1' The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, in my opinion, has been a successful medicine man in the African-American community. He has helped to heal lots of us. He is not on the scene just to be seen by the Muslims here, but he is to be seen as the man with the people's deficiencies and social illness on his mind and on his heart.
Plus, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad sincerely worked for the betterment of the African-American people, just as did Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
NO: I am going back to that Jumuah Prayer that will be held also during the Savior's Day Celebration. That will be a good place for Muslims of your association to have Jumuah, wouldn't it?
IWDM: Yes. There is no reason for us not to join Jumuah that they will have on Friday, I hope to be there, but I think I may receive invitations to be somewhere else and there are not two of me. So if I am invited, I have an obligation to be there. I will not accept any invitation outside of Chicago, so that I can join the Jumuah later. I don't give long khutbahs (sermons) anymore.
NO: There are some other questions I have that are unrelated to this subject. Can we talk about those today? Unless you may have a closing statement on this subject.
IWDM: Yes. In my last phone conversation with Min. Farrakhan, I expressed the desire to meet with him at some time when his health will permit and look for areas of cooperation for the two groups. I would think that Islamic education is one of them. Even economics may be one.
He invited me to come to his farm in Michigan or to meet him in Chicago. I would like to visit the farm, if possible. I do plan to have a phone call with him soon, perhaps the day after tomorrow. If I do reach him by phone, I will know within a couple of days when the meeting will occur.
(To be continued)