The Muslim Among African Americans
(Excerpts from the Voice of America Broadcast with Imam W. Deen Mohammed, July 24 and 28, 1992)
Our history (of Islam in the U.S.) did not start with me. It started with Elijah Muhammad. Our history in America began with us needing to be freed from slavery. After Emancipation we found ourselves needing a sense of belonging, accepted citizens of a nation, for the law here was segregation. There was a law for blacks and a law for whites. This for some resulted in a call for 'black nationalism'.
We had 'black nationalists' from non-Muslim blacks and also from Muslims. My father, Elijah Muhammed, may God forgive him all of his sins and grant him Paradise, had his own serious Nation of Islam, which was really a movement toward "black" pride. But it had in it a fervent connection with Islam. Thank God we have benefited from that and have come to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed.
With the help of good Christians who pressured for Civil Rights and good American citizens, non-blacks also, we realized a changed America — we witness a society that has greatly changed. Some of us now believe we can have a sense of belonging in this nation of Americans.
There are many influences and beginning perhaps with a man called Drew All who was a "black man" back in the early 1930's and around the 'same time that Professor Fard introduced my father to his idea of Islamic black nationalism. So we have many factions. Malcolm X's memory has been recently revived by Spike Lee, a movie maker. There is a movie soon to come out called Malcolm X. There is a lot of attention to Malcolm X now, especially from the youngsters on the streets.
There are many youngsters who are idled, who have no work and are on the streets. This attention to the "X" is temporary and is more of a fad, but it is good for us we think. It is going to attract them to Islam, and any meeting with Islam is good. It will eventually convert many of them, and we will have more Muslims in the United States as a result of this attention to Malcolm X.
Our attraction to Islam because of our situation in America is such that we were rejected by the American society at one time. So we find that our women and our men are almost equally enthusiastic about asserting their dignity as human beings.
We don't see that there is any real problem of discrimination or different treatment for women when it comes to being actively involved with politics and business. Our sisters are very aggressive, and we find that they rise to top positions in our community.
We have strong feelings and strong beliefs that the idea of humanity in Islam for Muslims will not allow us to have any racism or to be a racist. The clear teachings of Qur'an on the unity of man, the Words of God in the Qur'an say, God has made us tribes and nations so that we will get to know each other and be attracted to each other, and not despite each other.
And the words of the Prophet himself, the prayers and the peace be on him, say, "There is no superiority of a white over a black or a black over a white or an Arab over a non Arab".
There words of Qur'an and from our Prophet are very clear, and we do feel as people who have come from (racial) discrimination and have been rejected because of our color, Islam offers the American society a contribution of a special uniqueness when it comes to dealing with the issue of race and racism.
We do feel that Islam has a real role in the American society for improving the situation for all people to live together in peace and be brothers and sisters of one great nation.
About six years back and further we had to fight for our own life and establish ourselves in our own position as Muslims belonging to the ummah of Muslims internationally. First, we were insisting that we establish what is right and best for all of us and stick (faithfully) straight to that. But now we know we have to be diplomatic and work too for the unity of all Muslims. So we have patience with those who differ with us.
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. We are now in the main stream of life of this society and are exerting the 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.
I don't have a loyalty to the Democratic Party without some loyalty also to the principles and the virtues of the Republican Party. I find in both parties that we have people who believe in family values and are people of principle and virtue and of human decency and who promote just opportunity to have work or to have jobs and to be integrated into society as equals.
Certain things come first with us. Human decency comes first. Then comes all the other support that we need from society that is possible.
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 a 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.