Imam W. Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: What can Imams and members of the American Muslim Mission do to aid and support incarcerated brothers and sisters, and what is your opinion on a Muslim-owned half-way house?
IMAM: Well, for one thing the need for more support from the individual...to the indiv .ual: that is, the individual in our society is not really his brother's keeper any more. And we need people in the society to be more supportive of the good life of their fellow citizens. Most of us we just leave everybody else’s problems to them and we say it's enough for us to attend our own problems.
The people who are in prison, most of those people, I believe, are victims of this kind of apathy, a spirit of apathy that hangs over the society or that weigh on the society. What I am saying is that the main problem is the lack of concern for the well-being, the welfare of another individual in our society. And that's why a lot of the people of the cities and towns are in prison.
Now, that makes me feel sympathetic. Okay, so they have my sympathy because I know a lot of them are in there, not because they are really criminals or people who can't live any other way, but they are in there because of the lack of opportunity or the lack of a decent environment or decent society to develop in; they didn't have that, so they were forced by necessity, many of them, to break laws.
This is not to excuse a criminal. If you break a law, you are wrong, you have to pay. But we can't excuse the society either that doesn't provide an opportunity or a fair chance for people to live a lawful life, a legal and lawful life.
So we can do a number of things, but I think what we have to do is first become more considerate of the needs of other persons in our free society. That's where the problem is.
As for what we can do for those people behind bars, I think the best thing we can do for them is to better inform them so that they understand the challenge in free society. I don't think most of us understand that free society challenges us, and if we don't have great discipline, if we don't have high morals, if we are not devoted to something bigger than ourselves, devoted to the worship of
God, to serving the betterment of society, if we are not devoted to high and noble ideas, then we are going to be victims and we are going to find ourselves behind bars.
The best thing we can do is to make an effort to propagate the religion to people behind bars and to reach them with information that's not highly charged with spiritual language that's designed to make a person become a convert to your faith.
The concern should be to better educate that person, to better inform that person to better equip that person who is behind bars for a return to a life out here — that's really challenging.