World Muslim News
Imam Warith Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: Are there any present plans for the unused property of the community?
IMAM: I don't think we have a problem with our properties. I believe most of the properties are put to some good use. Those properties that were not practical for us to maintain because of the absence of persons who had the interest or qualifications to run them profitably, or because of them being a heavy financial burden on us were disposed of.
Some properties were heavily mortgaged or taxes and upkeep were so much it wasn't realistic for us to keep them. Some of the tenants weren't paying and others weren't able to pay the amount of rent that would be necessary just to maintain the property. So it was decided that we should sell those properties or lease them to other persons.
In one instance, the property was taken over by a Bilalian (non-Muslim) and I understand that he is not running the property at a deficit. But he had to up the rent so high most of our tenants would have been terribly alarmed. They probably would have demonstrated against the community if we had raised the rent that high.
After he upped the rent, he had to get court orders to evict them because they couldn't or wouldn't pay the rent.
We are not in a position and we are not of the spiritual and moral nature to deal with some of the tenants that you have to deal with when you are a landlord. We can't be slum landlords and we can't be roughneck, brutal landlords.
From the facts that I have now, in my brief experience as a leader here with these properties, I'm convinced that the average landlord in the ghetto has to either have his rent way out of the reach of the poor, the severely poor people, or he has to be a roughneck, a really rough man. He has to be willing to use muscle to get his tenants to respect him, and we can't do that.
I don't know of any real problems we have. The farmland that we had in Cassopolis — ? We wanted to have an experimental farm for the community, but because the farm is divided into so many parcels and they are separated by such distances with only 100 acres in close range, it created a problem.
We thought maybe in the future we'd be able to buy a farm that would be suited to our own needs and our own requirements. We would like to have the farm in one piece and not scattered about in parcels.
Right now we don't even have people to whom we could give the responsibility of running a farm that size and expect them to run it profitably for the community. We hope that we won't rush into anything. We will search carefully for people who have knowledge of farming and who have a strong desire to farm, to be on a farm and to live the life of a farmer.
Many of us have knowledge but we are used to the fast life of the city and we can't be expected to live on a quiet farm and devote our time completely to the development of that farm.
So we have a lot of problems, but I think with the help of the staff and other advisers that we have now, we will gradually move solidly in the direction of acquiring a farm that will be tailored to our own needs and we will be able to put people in there from whom we can expect some real progress.
The Pioneer Building at one time was a problem but I don't think it's a problem anymore. We have managed to get the tax reduced on the property because we couldn't have afforded to keep it if the taxes stayed as high as they were. In the last five years, the tax went way up. We have managed to get the tax reduced somewhat because of non-profit organizations operating in the Pioneer Building.
We do have good tenants there now and I think we've made progress that would be applauded by the community if they really could see exactly what we have been able to accomplish with the help of the staff here in Chicago. I think we have the properties in much better condition than they were before.
We have a big farm in the South being leased. We hope to have it paid for in a few years and then the money that comes in will really be income because the property would have been paid for. I don't think Muslims should feel that our properties are in a bad state. 1 think they are in a good