A Day In Grand Rapids, Michigan: Part 1
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed recently spent the day in Grand Rapids, Mich., with Imam Noah Seifullah, and answered questions — here given.)
Thank Allah, I am happy to be with you here in Grand Rapids, Mich. This is my second time visiting this facility, and I was so inspired, and lifted up by what Imam Noah Seifullah has accomplished with his friends here. When I find African Americans who are doing something, it is my pride to pay out of my pocket to give support.
I have three paintings from here, but I haven't paid a penny here yet; they refuse to take my money. Bro. Norman and Imam Seifullah said that I would love what they have prepared for me, and that is your (the audience) presence here. Some of you all I have a personal acquaintance with. It is good to see some of our old acquaintances again.
We are living in very bad times right now. I had dinner in a Greek restaurant recently and the owner saw I was having a business meeting there and he saw my name on my credit card. He saw my name, Mohammed, and smiled. I said to him, in these times many people who see the name Mohammed wouldn't be smiling. I usually don't like to talk; I like to listen, especially when it is something to help me with my life.
When I was a boy, the family would be talking to me and telling me that one day I would be a help to my father. I was a young boy like my son Mohammed Shakir who is here, and I appreciate that decent young man. This was a position that I was pushed into, almost. And I still love to be a second man rather than a first man. Muhammed the Prophet is the first man, and we all are supposed to be representing his office.
Now you (the Dawah Team) may ask me your questions through Imam Noah Seifullah.
Question: What is your position on the Faith Based Initiative that the government has been promoting?
Imam Mohammed: I meet with leaders in our community and with leaders outside of our association. Most of them and the Imams I am meeting with think we have more opportunity with President Bush's Faith Based Initiative. And we are encouraging our community to take advantage of this opportunity. The name of our project is the Mosque Cares. That name is given to it by the Ministry and myself. Soon the W.D.M. Ministry will be legally identified as "Mosque Cares."
We hope to work with the government and business to build a model or nucleus around which the community can grow, so that we can have a small Islamic neighborhood like Chinatown. They have plenty of businesses supporting them, with Buddhists temples and places in which to socialize are there too. And it can be duplicated any place in the United States where our following is and in other places outside of the United States.
Really, we are not the only ones doing this. Atlanta, Ga., has gone a good ways in accomplishing that. There are maybe close to 400 homes that have been built right near the Masjid. And they have stores for consumers who want to purchase items there. They also have wholesale businesses in that area. And they have the preschool, kindergarten, elementary school and high school. They are also planning a two-year college now in Atlanta. This is all our community doing this.
Washington, D.C., also has a good start, and there are others too. There are several places that we are very impressed with around the country. And we will have our model started within one to two years. We are also getting wonderful help from this terrific businessman you have here in this area, Imam Noah Seifullah, for the project we are going to start in the South West suburban area of Chicago.
We also have others interested in what we are doing; even Christians with big money are interested. So sister, we do want to take advantage of that. One day soon, I hope to have an audience with President George Bush. I like the Republicans and the Democrats!
Question: Is there any headway on the Convention Center? I know believers had been asked to contribute.
Imam Mohammed: Thank you. One of the main items in this project is the Convention Center. The Mosque Cares also includes motels or hotels along with the Convention Center - they will go together. I was walking out of the bank and one of the bank officials meeting with us and who wants to help us said to me: "Mr. Mohammed, you know you can come in any time you like and get $100,000." One day I'll get up from the table and they will say: "Mr. Mohammed, let us know when you want a $100 Million."
Question: Is anyone from the Muslim American Society association being represented on television with all the recent propaganda going on?
Imam Mohammed: Yes. We have many representatives who are doing a marvelous job representing us. We have some of them right here. From my office, the one whom I give most of the responsibility to is Earl Abdulmalik Mohammed, He is doing a beautiful job and is working hard. He, in my opinion, is responsible for most of the propagating of the true image of Muslims in America. Not just for us, for when this is all done, it benefits all Muslims - no matter what race or group they belong to. It makes our citizenship less burdensome and less risky.
If you say you are a citizen, and people take you to be an enemy, then your citizenship is in trouble. What good is your citizenship, when you are dead, killed for nothing or locked away? And that can happen. Innocent people are being attacked, and innocent people have lost their lives. A sister walking the street in California and one in the New York area were walking the street and someone snatched her headpiece off her head. So this is very serious.
The more we introduce ourselves before someone else introduces us - for they won't have the truth or knowledge to introduce us in truth; they will be guessing. They will introduce us as friends and supporters of terrorists, and we are not that. We are against anybody who is against humanity. G-d gave us religion so we could build our humanity with every people, no matter what race, no matter what nation. That common bond makes us the strongest force on earth.
Question: I would like to invite you to our Islam in Focus television program.
Imam Mohammed: Imam Seifullah made me aware of you, and we are waiting to be there. Please contact John Abdul Haqq to have this scheduled with my office. I look forward to being your guest.
Question: Is it okay now for the sisters to go out and do dawah?
Imam Mohammed: With a lot of caution. If you can go out with the brothers and do dawah and I won't be able to tell you are a Muslim by looking at the way you are dressed, then okay. Also watch your language. Don't attract attention to who you are. Just do your work. Under normal circumstances, we want people to see us and to know that we are Muslims. But under these circumstances it is unwise.
I am a product of my father, our late leader, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. I am very proud of his wisdom that has made me a very big son of his. If he were here, he would tell you the same thing as I am. He told us that there would come a time when we could not say "As-Salaam-Alaikum" in the public. He said you might get killed, because they will be so angry with you. We didn't know how it would come. But look at what these terrorist attacks and suicide bombers have done to this country.
Now they want everyone who is a citizen of this country to have an American flag in their window in their homes and on their cars, to show that they are with America. If you don't do that, your life is in danger. We have some fanatics in this country who are just as mad and insane as those who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There are people who think that they are the appointed guardians and protectors of our country.
There are some who have been published in the papers. They are so fanatic and insane that they can do the same thing that those terrorists are doing. They can commit suicide and use their own lives as an instrument or as a weapon. And some of them dislike their country now, because America has made it to be no longer a White and Black country. Now it is a human country for all decent human people, and they don't like that. That's not what they were left with from their fathers and mothers and grandparents.
They were left with the idea that this country was for White Christians only. And they are very dangerous.
Question: Imam Mohammed, since the terrorist attacks, we have had about 63 calls in Flint, Mich., from Christians who are telling us that they know those actions are not what we represent. These people gave testimonies and left their names and phone numbers.
Imam Mohammed: Yes, I have that message from you and it touched my heart. We have Christians who are ready to put their lives on the line with us, if they have to. That is beautiful, and we thank Allah for them.
Question: We were also surprised by the great work done here by Imam Seifullah. We've told others in Michigan to come here and see what he is doing.
Imam Mohammed: I also have brought with me one of the stars in our small galaxy -Sis. Baseemah Salat. She is one of my personal and executive secretaries and a great businessperson and dawah lady. She is working on a standard school curriculum for our schools now, which we will present to the leaders who are responsible for the standard curriculum for our schools.
She is doing so many other wonderful things. She is here because I told her she had to come here.
I am so much enthused after witnessing what you have here and with Bro, Norman who is heading up the dawah effort, that I have asked them to accept responsibility for heading up the Dawah Effort for our whole community.
It can be done by these people, because they are not pushy and are not dictators. They don't just talk; they also listen and they will be successful. We don't want to control anybody. We don't want to dominate anything. We just want to see everybody doing their best and doing it in concert - not differing with each other, not against each other. We want them to know our voice - we have one voice, the voice of Qur'an and of Muhammed the Prophet coming through the trumpet of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Note that I said "trumpet."
Question: Is there a format for us to protect ourselves from the cultural form coming against the religion? I know that you were working on translating the Qur'an for us.
Imam Mohammed: Yes, that is a very high priority, to translate the Qur'an by us into American English. It will require that I have more freedom to give a lot of time to contribute to that. And I am contributing some time to it. I have a lot of notes and research towards this over the years.
When I introduced the idea, I had been doing it for years. And I have made a lot of headway. It is a big project. When I get to it, I am going to pull a team together and do it. And it won't be when I am walking slowly. I'll still be energetic, insha Allah.
That was a very important question that he asked about culture and religion. We have to understand that Prophet Muhammed, when he was leading his people with others with him like Abu Bakr, he said to them: "See that you don't uproot or destroy the culture of the people. But give them Islam so that it will modify their culture and beautify the culture of the people and make it strong for G-d."
That tells us that all Muslims are free to have their own cultural life expressed by them and that it should come out of them. We shouldn't impose culture on another people. We are talking about culture now in the sense of dress, not education. But education, too, is culture and it has to come out of them too, and it has to be influenced by Qur'an and Prophet Muhammed's life.
But now we are talking about entertainment and dress styles, those visible things that a people create or produce that represents their life image as a people. I am devoted with sacred devotion to promote an original life for us in America. It has to be original. We want to build on the best that we have and what was left for us from before of what was good cultural life and cultural direction.
We want to build on our Black theatre and on our diets and choices of food as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was doing.
He did so much that impressed the intelligent persons, that an African came to him and said: "I want to write about-your Nation of Islam and your following. Can I get permission from you to interview your Minister Malcolm and your son, Wallace? Can I have permission to interview any of the following that I would want to?"
This person was doing a dissertation to earn his Ph.D. which he did earn. His name was Easian Udun, and the book was called "Black Nationalism and an Attempt to Build Your Own Culture" — so they could have their own identity.
He said to the Hon. Elijah Muhammad that he did not see him building a political identity, but "I see you building an identity for a new Black people. You are building a culture." The Hon. Elijah Muhammad had introduced a diet, for us to cook our rice a certain way and to make our bread and beans a certain way.
So this writer saw that as introducing a new identity to Black people, a new cultural identity. He saw the distinction in our dress. We didn't go outside to get our dress. It was all done with respect to how our people dressed in the south.
It is very important that we don't think "Islam" is a dress style of any people, and don't think that "Islam" is the food of any people. Those things are influenced by our fine Islamic taste, and it begins with our fine human taste, our fine southern taste from our parents from the South.
We have an effort now to have a theatre in Norfolk, Va., and we will not just have one. If we have an opportunity to put a theatre here, we will put one here. And the theatre will not just represent Muslims. It will be the property of Muslims and represent Muslims, but also it will show the best of African American theatre and American Christian theatre. We will produce that with our filters, our excellence of African American and Islamic filters and Christians will appreciate it.
Question: What do we say to our African Americans and to Christians as the most important thing to touch their hearts right away?
Imam Mohammed: I wish I had time to talk on the words I am going to leave with you now. Maybe you will think back on some of my talks and give this more body. Tell them: "What every people needs is more of what G-d created them to have, We are about helping ourselves get back to our own."