Voice of America: "Islam in America"
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(The following are excerpts from another "Voice of America" teleconference interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed participating with Dr. Vincent Cornell of Duke University in Raleigh, NC, on July 28, 1992. This interview emanated from Islamabad.)
IWDM (Opening): Salaams and greetings to Dr. Ansari. We are well acquainted with your great works and appreciate them very much. We have been helped by your works in the United States. And greetings to all of the participants. It is a great honor for me to participate in this discussion. I will begin by saying that "Blacks" or African Americans, as a people, have mainly two difficulties. And thank God that we are beginning to feel less pressure or problems from those difficulties.
For one, we were denied our equal place in the family of man. When we were enslaved we were pictured as subhuman, not quite human with other men. That disturbed our souls and burdened our souls so terribly. The other problem was that America at that time, the United States, also had two laws. One law was for the citizens of America and the other law for the subjects or emancipated slaves. Even after emancipation, the freedom of slaves, we still suffered rejection in this county by the law of the land as well as by the members of the society.
But with determination on the part of the slaves - Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass; these were men born in slavery, but as soon as freedom came these men showed that they had already developed educated minds and great intellect and were instrumental in bringing us forward.
In time we came to go two ways (in two directions). One way was the way of integration into American society led by a Civil Rights Movement and others who had preceded them like Dr. DuBois. The other way was to seek independence and ask for a return to Africa, at least a return to Africa in our hearts and in our minds and also a return to Africa economically. Some even thought that we wanted to leave this country and go to Africa. And as you know there was a State established with the help of the United States called Liberia. It happens to be more than fifty percent Muslim now; that is what I am hearing, and that is wonderful.
There was a real effort to escape rejection by this Nation and find a nation. My organization or the history that I belong to is called the "Nation of Islam." It was founded by Elijah Muhammad, who was himself given that concept by Fard, and we came to be called the "Lost-Found Nation of Islam in America." However, circumstances changed drastically to favor us living in America and to favor us feeling comfortable in America as citizens. So we chose with the passing of Elijah Muhammad, who had already somewhat led us to this position, to declare ourselves citizens with every right of citizenship with all other Americans.
We believe that there is agreement between Islam and Christianity that is sufficient enough for us to coexist with each other and work together for unity and peace and progress for all human beings in these United States.
Also we believe there is enough agreement or compatibility for our essential life with the human spirit and the spirit of excellence that we find in the Constitution of these United States. And as Dr. Ansari has observed, we are now in the main-stream of life of this society and are exerting our role and know that we have a great contribution to make to the United States of America, to all the people of this great land.
IWDM (Response): As we have observed here, we have identified the real problem not as one we see coming from the American society, as much as it is coming from an element among the liberals in America or extremists who represent liberals in America. I meet many liberals in America in the course of my travels and works here in the United States as a Muslim and as a spokesman for my people. I meet many liberals and do not find them all to be the same.
So I don't condemn liberals, but I do condemn a certain element who are the extremists among liberals. And they manage to get in the media and in the news and it is their values that are clashing with our values. I am speaking of Muslims now, but it is not only with our values. They are also clashing with Christian values and with the values of most of the decent people of the United States.
We are not the only ones suffering this problem, so we join the good Christians and others who are suffering the same problems. And we are not pleased with how family values and religious values are treated by the media and by, I would say, also the entertainment industry here in America.
We are also aware of another problem, and that is the special interest groups in America. They manage to influence the media also. The American society is a society that makes it necessary for you (for U.S. citizens) to get involved and compete to advance your interest.
I don't condemn this nature of America; I just appreciate having the opportunity to compete and get an hearing or get my voice or our voices heard as well by the media. I do find the attitude of the media towards Muslims has greatly changed over the years. There are major reasons for that, and I do not want to take up the time to explain that right now.
I am sure that you are aware of developments in the world, in the Muslim World and in the United Nations and also in the relationship for our country with certain Islamic countries. I think those developments and other developments have brought about a more favorable attitude in the media or has peaked their curiosity to know about us, to know the truth about Muslims. That is resulting in a more favorable attitude towards Muslims on the part of the media.
However, we do have very serious problems still, and we will have those problems because of the nature of the American society. There are the extremists among liberals and the special interest groups who are going to compete to have a dominant influence over the American public, the people. We just have to get involved and meet that competition and accept to face up to that (challenge). We have to do our best as Muslims and as Americans to be heard too and to influence public opinion.