"A Focus for the Unity of Muslims in America": Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed made this public address at the 1992 Annual Islamic Convention in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, September 6, 1992. From it he has prepared this article for Muslim Journal's readers.)
In the family and in accord with the original aim of nature there is no color line. One child may be as black as this floor under my feet and another may be as white as this shirt I am wearing, but they are my children and there is no color line. One may have slanted eyes like the Chinese and another may have eyes like somebody else. One may have lips so thin until it looks like no lips are there, and another may have lips so thick you don't see anything but lips when you look at him. But there will be no racism in that family.
That is what Allah wants for us in the big family. He wants the best of that social life to evolve and become the life of the big family. This is what Allah has given us in the Qur'an and in the life of Muhammed the Prophet. There is nothing better. Upon that note (for I am using this as the introductory note to condition us to appreciate our life more and more), I am now calling your attention to what we need to be looking at if we are to establish ourselves and have cooperation amongst ourselves for the good future of our life here in the United States.
We want establishment. We are obligated to work for establishment. When I say "establishment", I am saying exactly what we say when we are criticizing America for us not having as much opportunity as we would like to have: "The establishment won't treat us like they treat their own." We want to change that, and it is changing and has changed and is going to change some more. But sounding a little like my father, may God forgive him his sins and grant him paradise, let me tell you we also want our own establishment.
Now we should want to know if there is something in our make up — whether it is our emotional make up or mental make up — that is hurting us getting big establishment in this country. What is that? I believe what hurts us most is that we are responding more — almost 100 percent or totally — to problems more than we are responding to opportunity. If we just keep on giving our attention to problems and not to opportunities, we cannot establish very much.
You don't need to be in the garden of paradise to have progress and establishment. You only need to want establishment and recognize opportunity. People who establish themselves in situations that are hostile and not so inviting to them, they busy themselves looking for opportunity. Someone will say, "I don't see any opportunity over here for us." We have some of them, but I don't play into it. If I just continue to listen to those negative talkers and some of you among them, I would feel just as [some of] you feel.
If a person keeps telling you that you are sick and you keep listening to them long enough, after a while you will agree. "Yes I am sick." Soon you really will be sick and start hurting. So we have something in our way and that is us giving too much attention to obstacles, to problems and not enough attention to finding and also recognizing opportunities. If we would give as much attention and energy and time and interest to looking for opportunities for our progress in the establishment in America, believe me over night there would be great change. Pretty soon that old spirit of gloom and despair and hopelessness will be lifted from the African American people in this country.
We have proof in certain individuals who do not think like the masses of us do. They think "opportunity and investment". They think of progress and reward, and they are and have been progressing. You know them. But when you look at the lot of us and see the percentage of success for European Americans and measure it or compare it against the success for African Americans, then it causes us to be very down hearted. For they have so much more than we have. But if we give in to disappointment it is just going to keep us where we are.
We have to rise above disappointment and let a spirit of hope and faith and determination come into us, a belief that there is opportunity and a belief that God created us just like He created you. It is often said that African Americans are a people of great spirit, and they have given us the nickname "spook". That can be an asset and it can be a liability. If great spirit is channeled into establishment, it becomes a great asset. But if spirit is dissipated in fun and entertainment, it becomes a heavy liability. I am pointing to the problem, and I am not revealing something new today to you. These are things that we already know but things we tend to not give attention to. We have to give group attention to this problem, and we have to be serious about changing the state of African Americans. I am determined to live to see in my life (and God knows that I don't mind dying) a new spirit for African Americans, a spirit to channel our energies which includes our emotional energies into production for the realization of competitive establishment: Business, culture and education. I am determined to see that.
Nor am I speaking to only Muslims. When I get an opportunity, I make my appeal also to non-Muslim African Americans. Believe me, some of them have responded in a much more impressive way than many of you have. I say many of you because some of you are definitely stars in the heavens, but you are the smaller number. The great majority of you look at me like Moses' people looked at him in Egypt: "You haven't done anything yet to make me think it is better to be with you than to be with Egypt."
Progress for establishment will be determined by progress for family evolved social life, family life in its excellence. Remember we started off by saying the human being is a free mind. You don't have to stay where you are today mentally, you can go anywhere you want to go. You can imagine yourself being the Imam for any place in time.
Muslims have businesses where they do not have to worry about somebody insulting the customers and losing that customer or dipping their hands in the till and pressing for higher wages when the company can't afford it. They know the company needs to invest more in product manufacturing but the greedy workers will be calling a strike and sit down on the company. We have an advantage for a new kind of progress among our workers in America. But if we don't have trust, loyalty, conscience, and the ability to identify with the company and feel for the company and with the company as a part of it, then you are missing something that others have for progress. And you will not be good competition for them.
A political order can only progress if it continues to evolve in social excellence. Tills country was mighty when it had us as slaves. This country was a mighty powerful country when it had Jim Crow laws for us. It was powerful on the international scene. But this country began to suffer internal problems and began also to see the handwriting on the wall for its dominance in the world, and it knew that it had to prepare itself to function even better and to become situated to produce even more in terms of national production. It saw that it had two different opposing economies in this land, one based upon slavery and the other not so.
The great leaders of this country then decided they would do away with slavery to save the Union, because there were states committed to succeed and set up their own separate government and break with the other states in order to keep slavery and to keep that peculiar economy that was built upon the suffering of the African American people. This is what you know.
The more this country progressed its social excellence for its citizens as one family of Americans, the more this country came into internal security and more progress for itself domestically and globally. When America decided to end that peculiar institution of slavery, it decided so because it wanted to realize much greater progress for itself. It was the time of industrialization also. So the slaves were free so they could participate in a market needing labor in factories. It was expected that machinery would bring much more opportunity, and it did come. So the abolishment of slavery was a necessary step for America to continue as a great economic power to grow and compete internationally. And it did and eventually became the leader.
After emancipation something happened. America continued to press for great productivity and great wealth for the American people and great financial benefits for all Americans. But America did more to make us feel that life is fun than it did to make us feel that life is establishment. The result of that is that we became a terrible burden on America. We are not slave laborers any more, we have to be paid and the laws say it has to be the same as for anybody else for the same work. But when we take our pay check home, too many of us dissipate our earnings in nothing but pure childish fun.
When you take money that you need for your rent and dance it away, smoke it away, drink it away, or romance it away, you are having childish fun. And I mean it is unattended fun, that is a child who received no attention of a responsible adult. So we have been sensitized to believe that life is [children's] fun.
Many times you won't come to the Jumuah or you won't come to hear a lecture or to join us for a convention like this. It is because somebody makes you aware of some fun you could have, and that fun will have more attraction "ton you than coming to something that is significant as this convention.
Now we are progressing, and I hate to praise you and then let you down. But believe me, Brother Imams, they didn't come here just for us. Atlanta is a fun city and a beautiful fun place. It is exciting to say, "I'm going to Atlanta", and especially if you are coming from Chicago or some of these cold and unattractive places. Not that Chicago is cold and unattractive, but it does not have the southern air and the southern fineries that Atlanta has. A lot of us who don't like to admit it know that we aren't anything but southerners in the north. It just turns us on more to come to Atlanta than to go to the Big Apple. Many had their convention on the road on the way there.
We don't want to see us lose that. It is like our spirit, it is an asset if we can channel it into productive life. So if you are happy to be here and know why you are here, then do the same thing next year. Do not lose sight on what is of more importance. We can fry chicken from now on and enjoy it with potato salad from now on, but it will not take us down the road to establishment. But let us meet here and listen to the better of our minds and register and record what is offered in both your hearts and your heads.
(To be continued)