November 27, 1998
Interview with Imam W. Deen Mohammed at Indianapolis Airport
By Imam Michael "Mikal"Saahir
MJ: On the spelling of the word God as G'd, what was the intent, expectations or focus for using that particular spelling, omitting the letter "o"?
Imam Mohammed: During interactions with Jews and Christians, I had been seeing very often the spelling G-d for God with the "o" left out. I recall from my early years in the Nation of Islam, under the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, I recall him criticizing the spelling of G-o-d, that in reverse reads dog.
I noticed that a lot of the publications, a lot of the papers that I read from the Jewish people never had the "o" in there, so you can't read dog into it. It is absent there, and you wonder why is it absent. I didn't have to think about it. It's absent because they are offended by the reverse spelling, as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was.
I began to think that we should also reject the spelling "God." That is why I began to write in my own writings or in my own transcription of my speeches, to insist that it be written without the "o". I put an apostrophe, but really maybe an hyphen would be even better.
MJ: What can u>e, in the Muslim American Society, learn from the Focolare Movement?
Imam Mohammed: I hope what we see in the Focolare people is the true picture of Christian love for their fellow man. I think they demonstrate that very sincerely.
They demonstrate it in a way that serves to propagate or to spread the commandment of Christ Jesus, according to the Gospel that they follow. His commandment was, he said: "I offer you only one commandment (peace be upon Christ Jesus) and that is that you love one another, as I have loved you."
They call it "Christ Love." That is what I'm attracted to; that is what has attracted me. That is what, I would say, the cause for my interest in them and my closeness with them. They, in my opinion, demonstrate the commandment of Jesus Christ to his following, according to the Gospel of Christ Jesus that they follow. That you love one another, as he loved them; that Christians love one another as Christ Jesus loved them.
I would add that these people (Focolare) are not just having emotional attachments to Christ Jesus, peace be upon him. They also are interested in community life, like we are. I appreciate any sincere religious group who are trying to better the community life of human beings. They are trying to set up community models, and I think they are doing a good job of establishing small community models. They call them "Cities of Mary" - Mariopolis. I think we should take note of that, too.
We see in them their efforts to make peaceful human environments for people to live in. That is the same ambitions that we have, to have communities with homes, reasonable costing homes, clean environment, safe environment, room for opportunity for education, and opportunity also for business, so people will have employment.
We share with them those two values - basic spiritual value and community value. I think we should recognize that they have a very similar perception of that.
MJ: What are some of the most important concerns that you would like for our National Shura to focus on?
Imam Mohammed: We have just come out of the shura meeting. I think a resolution is going to be passed. I had to leave early to go to Cleveland, Ohio, but the resolution probably will be passed today to change the language from "National Shura" to "North American Shura," (a name) which I feel more comfortable with, too. (This is the shura of organization heads for ISNA, ICNA, the Community of Jamil Al-Amin, and the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed.)
I think the National Shura (for the Muslim American Society) and for the group that I'm a part of, the North American Shura, should work to help communities realize the transformation of their communities from one of chaos, confusion, disorientation to one of order in accordance with religious guidance, Islam.
MJ: Our community's name, Muslim American Society, is that name for identity purposes or for organizational purpose?
Imam Mohammed: It is for organizational purpose. It is to identify us as a close knit cohesive group of Muslims with a history and with a tradition in America. A tradition of following the Qur'an and the Prophet, but also a tradition of lifting up human life that was knocked down by slavery and discrimination, and now poverty, ignorance and drugs, etc.
MJ: Are we to have an organizational type of focus, without having the burden of a centralized...?
Imam Mohammed: That's exactly the interest. The interest is to have organizational structure and a sense of togetherness and organization without a centralized structure.
MJ: What do you think about Muslim political groups, such as the Coalition For Good Government? What kind of focus should Muslims have for political aspirations, in particular addressing the evolving needs for Muslims being incorporated through legislation into the American society -such as prayer in the work place, sisters' "hijab" in the work place, or getting off work on Friday?
Imam Mohammed: The first concern that the Muslim political organization should have is concern to improve and develop more, or heighten the political awareness of the voting citizen, the Muslim eligible voters, so that we would take serious our right. It's political empowerment. And if we don't have it, then we don't have political power.
We should exercise our right to vote, so that we have political empowerment, at least the beginning of political empowerment. Then after our political awareness and our serious commitment to use our vote wisely, the political committee or the body that would represent the Muslim political focus and thrust should study all problems for the Muslim citizens.
For the sisters, for the women, one of the (concerns) is not being able to follow the rules of their religion, or what the Muslim sister believes to be the dress code for women on the job, to wear their hijab or whatever on the job. That is one of the issues, but there are other issues, too.
We still have some discrimination in this country. The law is against it. But if there is not a group to monitor what is going on and have an eagle's eye on what is happening, many of us won't have the knowledge of our rights. Or we'll think it is something that we can't do anything about.
But if we have an informed group committed to watch, monitor what is happening in the Muslim community regarding their political rights, civil rights, or their human rights, then I'll feel more comfortable. We all will feel more comfortable, and we are in a position then to progress in America with other groups that are making progress.
They are making progress simply because they have some political body accepting responsibility to champion their interest or their cause to see that their rights are not violated. This body will see that they are not denied their rights.
It is very important that we support groups like the Coalition For Good Government. I am aware of them, Councilman Naseef Majied and Judge David Shaheed; they are very, very good people who are resourceful people and qualified, very qualified. In fact, many political organizations don't have highly qualified persons like them.
MJ: Also the Coalition For Good Government has a special love for our community concerns.
Imam Mohammed: Yes, that's right.
MJ: Regarding the general political atmosphere of America with the Republican political party coming out of the recent elections last week not very favorable. The Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is planning to resign in January. Do you have any comments on the apparent political shift in light of President Clinton's problems? It seems as if the public is saying something different than what the Republican Party is saying.
Imam Mohammed: I think the Republicans have been a little bit too extreme and radical in their attacks upon their Democratic opponents. I think it has hurt them some what with the Republican supporters. I think they hurt themselves with their own supporters, and I'm one of them.
I'm not committed to either (political) party, but there are some strong principles that I identify with that are Republican principles. But they lost a lot of my support for their group, the Republican Party, because of the radical way and the extreme way that I see they have conducted themselves in trying to undermine their opponents, their Democratic opponents.
Their attacks upon President Clinton and attacks upon the First Lady, Mrs. Hillary, I don't think are in line with or respects what I think is a conservative party principle.
MJ: Many of us are excited about the Collective Purchase Conference (CPC). Many are anticipating the upcoming line of products and the catalog.
Imam Mohammed: First, let me thank all the CPC investors for their patience with us; they are highly commended for their patience with us. Their patience is really because of their faith in my word as their leader.
We are making real progress now. We didn't want to hire anyone, because we didn't want the investment money to be used for CPC expenses or cost. But we have seen growth in the investment. Growth in the investment means growth in bank interest. We have realized enough bank interest now to hire two people.
We have hired a qualified certified public accountant, Hazim Ali. He use to be my assistant when I was the Supreme Minister of the Nation of Islam. He was the accountant for us. I don't have any report except a good report on him, no bad reports on him. He's a very dedicated man. highly principled man, a hard worker.
We have him now helping us. I had no professional people, no trained or skilled people helping me, until we hired him. Now we are getting something done. We are beginning to see real progress for the catalog sheet. We have already identified several items to present to the distributors and the community. They will be in catalog sheet form very soon.
MJ: Thank you very much.
Imam Mohammed: You are welcome. Thank you.