Young African Leaders Tour The U.S.
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
The following responses were made by Imam W. Deen Mohammed to the Young African Leaders:
IWDM: We say As-Salaam-Alaikum, that is peace be unto you.
This is really an opportunity for me to just join you for this meeting. It is a great honor to see so many from Africa in your fields of interest. I am just here to participate. As the Editor has said, we ' 'emerged from black nationalism", that does not mean that we do not have those concerns anymore. It means that we put first things first, and we were Muslims first and black nationalists after being Muslim. So we have put the religion before nationalistic concerns.
However, for us our religion addresses all concerns that are worthwhile for man. So we still have those concerns, but they are not based in the idea of separatism or in the idea of black consciousness anymore. Although we still have the same concern for Africa and for ourselves in the United States as black people or African Americans.
Q: What does the Islamic community in the United States do to try to orient American policy towards issues of Muslims and Jews?
IWDM: We support the political effort for a Muslim lobby. We would like to see the Muslims in the United States form a lobby and voice our own concerns and have some kind of influence on what is happening in Washington regarding the need for fair treatment of both Jews and Muslims. We want to see fair handed treatment of the problem for Jews and Muslims.
The problems are not so much in the United States but are in Israel. We expect to have some problems in the United States, but we have problems in the United States not only with Jews but with many groups. There will be among the ethnic groups some people who will go against our interest, and we have to be aware of that. We have to promote respect for each other.
We have to be more informed regarding ourselves and regarding the Jews. Many Muslims may not be as informed as they should be regarding our own religion and how we are obligated by that religion to conform to a certain established behavior. So we should become better informed ourselves and better informed of Israel, the situation in the Middle East, and also of the Jewish people as a religious people and as a political movement. The Jews are religious and are also a political movement.
I think we can say, that we do not have any serious problems for Muslims and Jews in the United States.
Q: But we know that the Jewish lobby in the United States is very powerful and influences American foreign policy. What are the Muslims in the United States doing to try to influence American policy in specific areas, for example in the area of the occupied territories of the West Bank, in that after all across the world Muslims show solidarity for one another?
IWDM: I would like for someone else to answer. But I will emphasize that when I mentioned our position and our understanding of ourselves and the Jewish people and the need to respect each other and to be better informed, I was addressing indirectly the need to have the truth in the American society. And when the truth is in the American society, it won't be too easy for any private interest group to influence the opinion of the American people enough to make our government leaders feel comfortable with a one-sided treatment of this problem. (The Muslim Journal Editor also noted that through the Muslim Journal we are working to have that type of impact on the American public, in particular to show the injustices done to the Palestinian people.)
Q: Which of the Schools of Islamic Thought are practiced in the United States by the Muslim community?
IWDM: There are four major schools, and you are perhaps aware that besides these major schools there are many other schools that have formed because of the popularity of certain teachers and educators in the religion. We do not put importance on this kind of division among Muslims. We, as most of the Muslims of the world, recognize all of these major schools. In the United States our environment is quite different. Those major schools formed because of the demands in the environment where they came into form. The Maliki, Hambali, Shafai, Hanafi are the four schools that developed because of environmental demands.
In America we have environmental demands, and I see something developing that is not favoring any particular school but is drawing from the best that we have in our situation that we have here in America. I would predict that we will one day have a school of thought here in America, just like those schools of thought developed. We will have a school of thought developing in America for this unique environment here.
Q: How are you financed? For example do you get Saudi aid?
IWDM: Saudi aid? Yes, I want Saudi aid. You can bring it here. I don't have it. The Saudis help many people around the world, but we need much more help than we are getting.
Q: Do you encourage or have you made Hajj?
IWDM: Yes. When we announced changes from the posture of black nationalist to the posture of a Muslim, we also at that same time announced that we were going to make Hajj. Many of our people, as you know, are not people of financial means. So we expressed our desire to make Hajj in large numbers and received financial help from Rabitat, the Muslim World League based in Mecca. Because of their help and the help from some of the more financially established people in our membership, by name my brother Jabir Muhammad (Manager of Muhammad All) and Muhammad AH, poor members were assisted in making the Hajj. That was in 1977 and was our first Hajj as a group. It totaled 300 members or more. Since that time we have been going yearly but in smaller numbers, We want to make a Hajj to Africa.
Q: With there being in Africa regional differences, do you here in the United States experience doctrinal differences?
IWDM: We have some differences, but the term "doctrinal" is not Islamic. It is western or Christian, and I do not feel perfectly comfortable with the expression of "doctrinal differences." But we do have some differences of opinion regarding how the religion is to be practiced. There are different groups. You know of the Shi'a and of the Sunni Groups, and there are many other groups.
My position is, and in America there is great support for this position, to play down the importance of these differences and to build upon the unity of Muslims. I don't believe we should make any fuss over people having differences of opinions. Our prophet, peace be upon him, made it very important that Muslims have the right to have their own opinion and to express their own opinion.
However, we should have a body of learned people who we respect to serve as the guide for Shuraa which means mutual consultation, so that we can come up with the best decisions for ourselves. I am not afraid of those kind of differences causing any problems for us in the United States. Our religion more than any other religion respects the rational, senses of man. And that is what we need all over the world.
The sunnah of the prophet is to follow his policies and dealings with other people. And that is another area where we are lacking. The Prophet was a great diplomat, and we have lost that diplomacy.
In response to one of the last questions to our hosts for these special guests, Dr, Hai also indicated that the binding interest for Muslims in the United States is "Qur'an and Sunnah". That is the only interest or element shared by all Muslims in this country. It is the only interest that joins all of the Muslim communities regardless to what country they are coming from and from which walk of life.
So far as the connections with the African countries with Al-Islam, he noted that Al-Islam spread quickly from the Saudi peninsula on to the neighboring African countries. There is much daw'ah work being done all throughout Africa. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are recognized for the help that they have given from the perspective of knowledge and materials to many of the African countries-There are many African Muslims here in the United States.
And as we reflect on the much talked about "princes among slaves" as they have been referred to in history, where learned Muslims were found to be among the Africans brought to the shores of the American continent, we look again into the faces of our distinguished guests and thank Allah for this opportunity to re-establish our ties with a people from which we have come, though for hundreds of years not fully or accurately informed of.
Our special guest, Dr. Mahmoud Abdou Zouber, from the Republic of Mali stated:
"I would like to thank you first of all for giving me the opportunity to come here. The answers given by the esteemed speakers have confirmed my thoughts and have made me feel very good about you here. It makes me feel very optimistic."