2-15-02 to 3-8-02
An Interview By Tony Brown With Imam W. Deen Mohammed
TONY BROWN: Thank you very much for this honor, I want to call it, to have the opportunity to sit down with you and chat. I know based on what I have done in my research, since the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, you have not given a television interview or a public statement. I know you have issued a printed release. What has compelled you at this time to want to address the Nation and sections of the world in terms of what is going on now?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: My assistant, Earl Abdulmalik Mohammed, and also other top people in my office and in our organization had made me aware that we need to reach the public, because we have our own voice and something that may help the public better understand what's going on.
TONY BROWN: Right now, as a result of this tragic event, this attack on our country, I understand that many of the best selling books are on Islam. Americans and people around the world are trying to understand it. Students are demanding it.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The Qur'an is leading the list.
TONY BROWN: The Qur'an is at the top of that list. Students are demanding in universities and schools, in multicultural programs, that a background or explanation of the philosophy of Islam be given to them. Within Islam, there is a debate over the efficacy of what is being said by Osama bin Laden and people like him. Among Christians and Jews and people who are not Muslims, they are trying to understand Islam, in order to understand the motivation primarily for these terrorists.
This will give everyone an opportunity to come to you as someone who is an expert and get a precise explanation. You are the spiritual leader of 2.5 to 3 million African American Muslims.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: That is what I am told.
TONY BROWN That is what I am told as well, and I do know for a fact that you are a person, a man who is greatly respected and someone whose opinions are strongly sought after. I don't think there could be a better time in history than to come to you and ask you to help all of us to understand Islam and help us develop an insight into what is happening. From your point of view, what is happening in terms of Osama bin Laden and his version of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I am not sure that Osama bin Laden has been accepted as the leader of the Islamic community life worldwide or even anywhere in Saudi Arabia. I think that he is not. I would think that the Islamic world is still divided by many schools of thought and also by many personalities like Osama bin Laden. But definitely, he has captured the attention of the world, because he has been identified as the mastermind behind the horrible thing that was done to our country.
I feel that most of the Muslims of the world are relying upon their local religious leaders for understanding and guidance. And a great number are depending on themselves. They go to their Holy Book privately and depend on their own opinions and minds and thinking. Thank G-d, most of the Muslims don't accept to have their freedom taken away, even in countries where the freedom is taken way. They go privately to the Word of G-d and they know about Prophet Muhammed. They know his life, and that is what is really ruling in the Islamic world.
You can't see that, because the powerful Islamic state the political order or government is not accepting that the people express themselves openly and freely.
TONY BROWN: There are based on my research! something like 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. One writer estimated that about 160 million of this 1.3 billion ) which is not that many people compared with 1.3 billion are pretty much lined up ideologically with Osama bin Laden's point of view.
Because there are so many Muslims, then one percent of Muslims who do anything is a tremendous number of people. There are non-Muslim now who are saying: "See, a] Muslims are like Osama bi] Laden." That we know is no true, any more than like a] Christians are like a Christian who goes into the opposite direction. But the impact of Islam as a result of this small fringe of extremists is giving shape to many people's opinion of Islam.
What I would like for you to help us do is for us to gel a correct understanding of the tenets of Islam. Let us begin, if I may, with violence Osama bin Laden advocates violence. Is this a basic tenet of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: No Islam is a religion of peace I peace with G-d and peace) with the creation as G-d made it, keeping the beautiful innocence of the human nature and the beautiful purity of the human nature This is an obligation on Muslims.
Muslims are spiritual people and religious people who want peace for themselves, peace for their fellow an and peace for the world.
TONY BROWN: What about aggression?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Aggression is forbidden in Islam. G-d expressly says in our Holy Book: "Be not aggressors." Even in cases of war, it says | that if the other side shows a willingness to have peace or a willingness to stop the war, you incline toward them also in like fashion.
TONY BROWN: What about suicide?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Suicide is a great sin in Islam, as it is in Catholicism and most of Christianity. It is one of the major sins.
TONY BROWN: If a person believes in suicide and they believe in the murdering or killing of the innocents, can that person be a Muslim?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Most of the scholars, members of the ulama, religious scholars in Islam condemn such. They say and I say along with them that there is no support anywhere in Islam in our Holy Book or in the life of our Prophet for such.
TONY BROWN: What about Jihad, which means holy war?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, it does. We are told that the greatest jihad is when you put your own life on the line, when you sacrifice your life for your cause. Perhaps that is. But we know that our Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, the 7th Century Prophet, said that the greatest jihad is the jihad we have going on in our hearts and souls to conquer evil and bad inclinations and present ourselves peaceful and in good behavior before our G-d. That is the greatest jihad.
Every sincere religious person knows that jihad. Jihad simply means, if literally translated, "struggle."
TONY BROWN: It is a struggle within?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. Firstly, with yourself to conquer that which is taking you away from the good person or behavior that G-d wants for you, according to your Holy Book and according to the Prophet, who showed us how to live our religion. That is the first jihad.
We are obligated also to struggle in the world with our souls. But we are not to struggle in the world with our souls, until we first have our souls conforming to what G-d wants for us. So a person who is taken over by violence by bitterness, by hate, by rage, that person is not good for our jihad in the world.
The first jihad in Islam is the struggle within yourself to keep out bad influences, to keep out bad thoughts, so that you remain peaceful, obedient, respecting your fellowman and his life and respecting G-d. Jihad out in the public is to carry that struggle out into the public and be an influence in the public life to conform to what G-d wants.
When you are at war, G-d says struggle with your wealth and with your own souls in the Path of G-d. This is not the path of the world, it is the Path of G-d. So if we let a worldly spirit rule us even when we are at war, we are not fit as Muslim soldiers. The spirit of G-d's Words should be always prevailing in us over the spirit of the world. So if something causes me to act out of bitterness hate or injuries caused to me or to my family or to my nation and to fight in the spirit of bitterness, then I am not fit as a Muslim soldier.
We are told in our Holy Book that we are not to allow the hatred of a people to influence us with bad conduct or to do wrong and swerve us from doing justice. This is the Word of G-d. This is not me saying it. I am quoting our Holy Book. So that tells us that no matter what the circumstances are in the world, we are still to obey G-d and conduct ourselves in a way that is acceptable in the Presence of G-d.
TONY BROWN: Even when a Muslim has been done wrong by someone else, when a Muslim is angry about his or her own social or economic situation, there is nothing in the Holy Book, the Qur'an, that gives the Muslim the right to be aggressive, to take a life or to take his or her own life? Is that accurate?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. G-d tells us never be the aggressor. But to retaliate and respond to what has troubled you and has made your life miserable or attacks upon your life. Certainly we are authorized and justified in doing that. However, there is a conduct imposed upon us by G-d, no matter what the situation is, even violent physical war. Still we have to conform to what G-d asks of us. And the Prophet taught this to the believers. They were at war and were not the aggressors.
Prophet Muhammed was so peaceful and so much interested in giving the message of Islam to the world, that he took a lot of abuse. Once he was rejected by the people of a mountainous rich area in Saudi Arabia called Taif, and they rejected his message and him very harshly. And as he was leaving that mountain area, it is recording in history by Muslim and Bukhari, who are the two authorities in recording the history of Prophet Muhammed, that blood could be heard in his sandals as he walked away. The Prophet did not try to get an army and come back to destroy that city of Taif.
TONY BROWN: Did they physically attack him?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, they threw stones at him. Most of them were little children throwing the stones and there were some adults.
But his body was bleeding.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, the blood was running down into his sandals and making the swishing sound. He never said, "Now I have a strong army, so let's go take care of Taif."
TONY BROWN: Or that they deserved what he was going to do to them?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes.
TONY BROWN: Is there anything in the Qur'an that justifies, no matter what America's foreign policy is or whether one agrees or disagrees with it and G-d knows, America's foreign policy has done a lot of bad things. It has done a lot of good things, but also it has done a lot of bad things. No matter what America's association is with Israel, no matter what America believes, is there any justification according to the Qur'an for the terrorist attack that America suffered on September 11, 2001?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The answer is no. There is no justification for any Muslim to kill innocent people to get at the guilty ones. You don't kill the innocent to get to the ones you think are guilty.
TONY BROWN: Among those who are not Muslims, I have read a lot of articles and there is the tendency to take the belief of an Islamic cult or sect and generalize it to the world's entire population of Muslims. I read an article by one writer who said, "President Bush is trying to convince the world that Muslims are peaceful and a handful of Muslims are doing these things. But what I am seeing now is that there are so many Muslims agreeing with Osama bin Laden, that this must be what Islam basically teaches." How do you respond to that?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: The developments in the world, presently, not to mention the Crusades that are still in the minds of the Muslim world and not to mention 1947 when they were establishing Israel as a state in what was the home of the Jews and the Palestinians, the things happening now like the problem for the Palestinians and Israelis and Kashmir and India, all of these struggles on the minds of Muslims and especially for Muslim leaders, we can't just look at what happened on the llth of September and isolate it from all these other things.
What we have is a damaged psyche of the Muslim world and of most of the Islamic leaders. When I say damaged psyche, I am sure they won't agree with me. But when I say damaged psyche, I mean that these troubles in the world that have been used by them in their thinking to say: "This is why we don't have peace in the world. It is because Christianity fought against us in the Crusades. It is because in colonial days, they imposed their life on us in our countries under a colonial state. And because of what they did in the Middle East to establish Israel over there on us and take Jerusalem as its capital...." All of those things are on their minds.
With these things on their minds, naturally they are becoming more bitter and more bitter, and some are enraged and very destructive and self-destructive as well. So we have to look at the whole picture and see what is the psyche of the Muslim world. When I say Muslim world, I am speaking mainly of the Muslim leaders who influence the Muslim world to their way of thinking.
There are readings in the Qur'an and portions of the Qur'an that address the problems that the Palestinians are having in Israel. But never are we to become the wrongdoers in the Eyes of G-d because we want to get at wrongdoers.
TONY BROWN: So what is wrong with being a wrongdoer? What would happen to a Muslim if a Muslim went against the laws of the Qur'an and wanted to destroy all Jews or wanted to destroy all non-Muslims?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: He would be going against the Qur'an and he would not be a Muslim.
TONY BROWN: So that would make him a non-Muslim?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. You can't consciously do that and be a Muslim. The Qur'an says that there is an example or a party among the Jews and among the Christians who promote fair dealings and righteousness for mankind. And the same is required of Muslims. G-d says: "Let you be a people promoting fair dealings and righteousness for mankind." If we say all Jews are to be condemned, we are going against our Holy Book. Our Holy Book goes even further to say that G-d says:
"Whoever is a believer in G-d and in the Last Day and believes in being accountable to G-d, he should have no fear, nor should he grieve. His reward is with G-d, his Lord."
TONY BROWN: Do you have fear as a renowned Islamic scholar, and you are. You may not claim it, but other people do. You are recognized as a renowned scholar, and you are recognized I know, by most people who know you as a man of impeccable integrity. I would like to get back to points in your life, and we all are tested. We come to a point when we have to take this test. If we pass it, we go to the next grade, and if we don't I don't know where you go but it is not to the next grade.
You had a test when you were elected to be the head of the Nation of Islam, which was all Black in 1975. It was founded by your father, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. You were the head until 1985. Did your philosophy veer from the Nation of Islam philosophy, which was called Black Nationalism for lack of a better term? Did you see that as a test in your life? Was that the path where you had to go one way or the other? Did you experience it that way?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, I did.
TONY BROWN: You could have had a pretty good thing, couldn't you? You would have had thousands and thousands of people who would have done whatever you wanted. You would have had millions and millions of dollars, and there were and are a lot of Black people who wanted you to carry out that tradition. Why did you go in another direction?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: That was the most difficult thing. It was not the money. It was not the popularity, because I thank G-d that I am not created that way. It was our members whom I knew were being hurt deeply by the changes I was bringing about. And many of them were very sincere, but they just couldn't see the strategy of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. His strategy was to be harsh as a separatist, to demand separate states to put pressure on America to look at itself again and to treat us better and to give us equal citizenship in this country. That was his strategy.
As the country changed to accept us, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad toned down his own rhetoric and eventually appeared as a peacemaker. If you will listen to the last two annual addresses that he made to his followers at the Savior's Day Conventions, you will hear an Elijah Muhammad who is appealing to his people to look at America again, to look at the White man again. And he said that there was a White man in Islam there who was a scientist. When he said "scientist," he meant as a saint or as one of the ulama the scholars in Islam. This man was from Turkey.
He was saying that to say "all White people are not bad. This White man is a Muslim and he is a saint, he is a scholar, he is a wise man." And he said: "I say this from the bottom of my heart, if a White man can accept you and treat you decently, you respect him." That was the Hon. Elijah Muhammad.
TONY BROWN: Had he changed? Then there is the belief or mythology of the mad scientist Yakub, who allegedly was a Black man who created White people, or something to that nature. Anyway, it was saying, "White people are not good people." Was that his original belief? Did he move from that or was he just misunderstood?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: That was the "original indoctrination" in the first stage in the strategy. The first stage in the strategy was to separate us from White folk. And that was used to separate us and to make us see our own creation as different from White folks. I'll put it this way: His teacher gave him what he needed to establish the Nation of Islam that would self-destruct, when the time came.
TONY BROWN: That was part of the plan?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. Those teachings that you mentioned were the explosives timed in it to make it self-destruct. When there is no reason to look at the White man anymore as the slave master and no reason to see him as the one separating us and forcing us to live a miserable life in an inferior status as citizens of this country, when all that is gone, then these things will destroy that old idea.
If you can accept it, the man who taught my father took his strategy and his plan and even his personal role from other sources. One source is the Bible and of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus said, "Destroy this Temple and I will restore it or build it up in three days." So here is a man creating a Temple of Islam to be destroyed but restored. It is not restored as the same Temple, but as Worldwide Islam.
That was the intent. To eventually bring us to Worldwide Islam, but not as students of Worldwide Islam.
TONY BROWN: Did your father ever explicitly explain this to you?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: No. But he said enough and did enough to make that clear to me and to many others.
TONY BROWN: Give me a summary, if you would, to what in your father's plan created independent thought among members of the Nation of Islam or was designed to create independent thought among members of the Nation of Islam.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: He made that perfectly clear. He said: "What I'm teaching you is preparing you to be your own leaders. You are not to think like the Muslims outside in the Muslim world. Our savior (speaking of his mystical teacher) told me not to let them teach you and not to permit them to become members of the Nation of Islam." And you know that they were not members of the Nation of Islam for most of the history of the Nation of Islam.
Also, he had his own lessons for us to learn to build up our sense of our own personal self-worth. And he made us to think that G-d wanted us to tackle the world's problems, Black people's problems and qualify ourselves to be our own leaders not only in America but for the whole world. What his teacher did was something to actually create a new mind and a new thinking in the Islamic world.
TONY BROWN: You certainly fit the mold, if that is the case, because you have been in all of your public life, to my knowledge, an independent thinker. You took the Nation of Islam, an all Black organization, to an organization that saw itself within the context of the United States. You took it into Islam, into the international sphere.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: And I believe that was planned by my father's teacher and by my father.
TONY BROWN: Who was your father's teacher?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: His name is Fard.
TONY BROWN: You say he was outside of the Nation of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: He was not an American. He came from abroad as an immigrant from the area we call Pakistan now. It was India when he came to America, before 1947.
TONY BROWN: So the genesis for the Nation of Islam is in the Middle East?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: No. The genesis would have to be here, because I don't believe he even conceived the idea, until he came to America. He experienced discrimination himself in the South. We were told that he went to a restaurant once, and his skin was like the Indians, and he was told "we don't serve colored people here."
He told them, "I notice you have colored people working in your kitchen. They can put their hands in your food but they can't eat your food'' He already had experienced some discrimination here himself, and I think that was when he put the idea together, to a concept that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad could use to build the Nation of Islam.
TONY BROWN: Back to you as an individual being an independent thinker. If what I think I know is correct, you are not only an independent thinker, but you are a historic figure. You have been very quiet about this. What I am going to ask you and discuss with you now, I have learned through my ability as a researcher' You did not bring this to me initially.
That is an event that happened to you I would estimate about five years ago. There are various schools of thought in Islam, as you have talked about here during this interview, and Muslims, like Christians approach Christianity and like Jews approach Judaism. approach it from different points of view.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: They have Madhhabs.
TONY BROWN: That is a School of Thought?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes.
TONY BROWN: Now, your School of Thought is Traditional Sunni Islam. Is that correct?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes.
TONY BROWN: Alright. Someone came to you, and I would like for you to help me understand this, because I don't know the details. Someone came to you approximately five years ago from a country in the Middle East, a very influential and wealthy man, and attempted to get you to teach a form of Islam or to promote a form of Islam. Am I accurate in saying that that form of Islam is closer to what we call Wahhabism?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Well, for a little clarification This person did not indicate to me that he came with any interest in me accepting any particular School of Thought. This person came to me and impressed me with this idea. that "you need to have us as your father, and you and your other leaders are brothers"
He left me with the impression that I was not to differ with hem and have no points of view that differed with him and those associated with him back in his country in the leadership. And it so happens that the School of Thought for that country is the Wahhabi School of Thought.
TONY BROWN: Can you explain to the audience what Wahhabi Islam is like?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I can't, because I don't live in Saudi Arabia.
TONY BROWN: So we are talking about Saudi Arabia?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. I visited there but I don't live there.
TONY BROWN: It is being compared to the fundamental type of Islam that is advocated by the Taliban. Would that be unfair?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I would say that in my opinion. I have nothing in my knowledge or experience with the King I have been the guest of two kings in Saudi Arabia. I have nothing to support that. My knowledge and experience tell me that Saudi Arabia's leadership is moderate, when we look at some extreme nations of Islam that we nave now. Or I would say, of some Muslim centers that are in the news. When we look at them, I would say Saudi Arabia is a moderate, not an extreme.
I would also say that Saudi Arabia is mainly interested in getting the Qur'an, our Holy Book, and the pure teachings of Islam, the life of our Prophet, to Muslims. And that is their charity to the Islamic world. We have received many Qur'ans and much good help from them. They were ready to help us to develop our school curriculum.
I don't believe that Saudi Arabia is in the hands of extremists. I believe that there are extremists among them.
TONY BROWN: I want to be clear here. You rejected this offer?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes.
TONY BROWN: Why did you reject the offer of becoming the child, the religious offspring, to a new parent?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I guess it is because my father raised me well and my mother did a marvelous job.
TONY BROWN: Translated, that means what?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I have my own mind and I won't give it up.
TONY BROWN: I want you to help me understand, because I don't. What is the difference between what you were teaching and what you thought you would have to teach, if you entered into this new relationship with this emissary from Saudi Arabia? We are not attacking Saudi Arabia.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: No, you are not. When I was a child as young as 5 or 6 years old, I can recall myself sitting in the seats with all the other Muslims listening to my father teach to the congregation. What impressed me most as a child and what has stayed with me now is what he said Islam was then.
He said: "Islam is freedom, justice and equality." And no one can take that from me. Freedom. Justice. And equality.
TONY BROWN: If you had entered into this relationship, do you feel you would have lost your freedom, equality and you would not have gotten justice?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Exactly. For my soul and for my mind.
TONY BROWN: You are and were the leader for 3 million African Americans who are members of your Islamic organization. You are the spiritual leader. So you would have been taking Black Americans, who are Muslims, in a different direction. Would you have not? Wouldn't that have been the result, if you had accepted this relationship?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Certainly, if I had accepted that relationship, I would have given up my leadership and abandoned what I feel to be my duty to my community.
TONY BROWN: What would your community have gotten?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: They would have gotten a man as their leader who would not be there. Their leader would have been whoever was dictating thought, opinion, thinking and policy to them through me.
TONY BROWN: You would have become a conduit. And what I want you to help me understand is what would the message have been through you as a conduit? What would you have told these 3 million African Americans that Islam was that was different from what you continued to tell them and what you tell them today?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I would have simply been in a position to tell them that for you to see Islam, look abroad.
TONY BROWN: To Saudi Arabia?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I don't want to say Saudi Arabia.
TONY BROWN: Ok, and if they had looked abroad they would have seen more extremist fundamentalist Islam than you teach?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I wasn't seeing it as extremist or even as fundamentalist. I was seeing it as ritualistic. They would have had a more ritualistic life than a rational life. They simply would have been following the rituals of prayer, the rituals of Hajj, etc., but not being free thinkers.
TONY BROWN: They would not have been learning how to be a Muslim in America? They would not have been adapting and learning the way you emphasize?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Their rational minds would have been sealed against influencing their thinking as Muslims.
TONY BROWN: Would they have been better Americans, if they simply were ritualistic Muslims?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: They would have no place in America, the land of the free. They would have been zombies, monsters and dummies. In America, if you are not thinking on your own and somebody else is dictating your life and your thinking and everything, you are not human.
TONY BROWN: Let me be specific. September 11, 2001, came along five years later. Had you in that five year period been teaching this other philosophy that someone else wanted you to teach, you in the conduit position where you are simply passing along theology, would today in America the many if not the most of the 3 million members of your Muslim organization be amenable to Osama bin Laden's version of Islam?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I won't say to his version of Islam, because who knows his version of Islam. We don't know it. Would they have been influenced by his popularity that has now been given to him because he is charged with being the mastermind of the attack upon our country? Yes, they would have been influenced by it.
And I think many of them, perhaps 50 percent or more, would have seen in him a hope for Islam. That is the tendency in most of the Muslims in the world, because of that damaged psyche I mentioned to you earlier, how trouble has scarred them and they charge the West with practically all of those troubles and maybe correctly.
Because of that damaged psyche, most of the Muslims of the world are desperately waiting to see who is going to be our deliverer, who is going to champion our cause. So when someone comes up and is presented to them by a Western press, they suspect the Western press and want to disbelieve the Western press, because of the conditioning and bad experience and hurt from the past that they charge to the West.
So right away they want to reject the news coming from the West. They are not going to read that news; they are going to read the news from Muslim media. I would say the majority, 50 percent or more, would be inclined to see America as the wrongdoer and find some way to cover or ignore all the wrong that has been charged to Osama bin Laden.
TONY BROWN: Am I correct in this analysis? Had you gone along and in fact turned over your community to an outside force when you were asked to do so, would America today not be a very different place and would you have not, according to your own words I'm not qualified to speak for you would you have not in your capitulation to this force created a fifth column of Black people in the United States, who now would be ready to act against their own country?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Certainly. Yes. Because most of the Madhhab or schools presented by our leaders of this time do not tend to welcome thinkers who embrace the great ideals of this Nation or of the Western world. And if we had been influenced to accept their way of thinking, I doubt if our following would be patriotic in any degree.
TONY BROWN: Not only would they have not been patriotic, and I am following your logic, would they have not been potentially violent toward the United States?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Potentially injurious.
TONY BROWN: And instead of us today saying that we have become a united nation, united in our resistance to intolerance and to violence.... As Mr. Zogby polled, and he happens to be an Arab, found that 69 percent of Arab Americans favored a war against terrorism going all over the world. And only 61 percent of all Americans favored that. So Arab Americans are more patriotic in support of the President's initiative against worldwide terrorism.
So instead of us having that kind of country, if you had led 3 million Americans who happened to be African Americans in another direction, we would not have this united we stand theme in America, would we?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I would supposed that if that had happened, in the same measure that we now have encouraged immigrant Muslims to embrace America because they see that we have been successful in embracing America we would have been a negative influence, and most of the immigrant Muslims would be also of that mind.
TONY BROWN: So you would not have just influenced 3 million Americans, you would have influenced 6 million Americans?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Most of the Muslims in America.
TONY BROWN: Well in my book, that qualifies you as a historic figure.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: I have no interest in that.
TONY BROWN: I know you don't, and that is what makes you a great man. Because you are not interested in that.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: And I am not interested in being a great man.
I know you are not, and that is why you are a great man. If you were interested in being a great man, in my humble opinion, you would not be a great man.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Thank you.
TONY BROWN: I saw two things as I watched you from a distance. One is what you did when you became the head of the Nation of Islam with the temptation and the opportunity to line your own pocket and to do what you didn't think was right. I am not judging any philosophy.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: My mommie and daddy did a marvelous job on me.
TONY BROWN: And I have to thank them. The second point that I learned during this interview, that you just explained, is that you had the opportunity and I am sure there were financial inducements for you in that opportunity.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. From the Nation of Islam it was a big temptation, and from the Islamic world it was a big temptation.
TONY BROWN: Putting the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States in context, do you think that somebody five years ago had a strategy that ultimately they were going to have to deal with the United States in an adverse way, and they wanted the Black community in the United States to be favorable to them when they made their move? Has that ever crossed your mind?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED No, it has not. But I can't dismiss that. That could be. There are things that have happened to me as I have witnessed, that happened in our relationship with Muslims outside of our community, that would give some strong support to what you are saying.
First of all serving our G-d and this religion and serving this county ask of us that we be courageous enough to say some things that we don't want to hear. When I was speaking of the damaged psyche of the Muslim world, I had also in mind a portion of the Qur'an that can be used not in this situation that has been recently created, but for Israel and especially for the hardliners like Sharon and others who have been in the leadership there.
Their killing of Palestinians and being indiscriminate, killing the innocent and taking the homes of the Palestinians, taking innocent people from their homes and taking over their territories, there are Muslims who can take from the Qur'an something to justify them. Not in doing the same thing, but in the Qur'an it says if one of your people is killed, compensation has to be made. The other side has to turn over the guilty party or the murderer(s) or they have to compensate you.
A free person has to be compensated with more money or whatever is negotiated for than the enslaved person, because there were still some slave persons back there at that time. So the Muslim reads this and gets something: "They are killing our innocent people and they have to turn over the guilty murderer to us or compensate us."
We have that to stand upon. I don't separate myself from them, as long as they are thinking rationally and sober minded. Also it says in the Qur'an, those who have done horrible things against you and you are fighting them in war, it says kill them and they will not change. It says "kill them wherever you find them."
TONY BROWN: Is that correct?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: That is correct.
TONY BROWN: Should a Muslim think, "kill them wherever he finds them"?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes. G-d said it. Yes, to kill them wherever you find them. But it does not mean to kill them indiscriminately, to kill their children and babies or to kill the next door neighbor who has no part in this argument.
Muhammed taught the warriors that when you go to a country and you are fighting them, don't attack those who are not bearing arms against you. He also said don't destroy their crops, because after the war they have to live on those crops. This was a humanitarian.
TONY BROWN: Should one kill the tree, if one green leaf is left on the tree? Does the Qur'an say that?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Cut it down, it is too rotten.
TONY BROWN: The one green leaf won't save it, all right.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: It is not quite like the Bible.
TONY BROWN: I was told that was the Qur'an.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: And that is a message that has to be interpreted. I saw a green leaf sprouting out of the head of Osama bin Laden. One green leaf, I saw.
TONY BROWN: And that told you to do what, save the tree or cut down the tree? If we are where we are, and the United States has the greatest military ever assembled we are an awesome economic power is that going to save us from a situation in the world which many people in the world consider essentially evil? And that means that all of us have to learn from this, not just Muslims, not just Christians or Jews but all of us. If we are having a hijacking of Islam, if there is a cult or small group that is overwhelmingly growing and endangering Islam, what is the role of the Muslim?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: To resist it with his hands. And if he has no circumstances for doing that, to resist it with his tongue. This is the Prophet's teachings I am giving you. And if he has no circumstances for resisting it with his tongue or speaking out against it, then he should at least dislike it in his heart and not give it any support.
TONY BROWN: But the world, the West does not understand Islam, Americans in particular. Americans tend to look toward what is American.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Our obligation, as you are indicating is our obligation as Muslims is to correctly inform our American public.
TONY BROWN: And the world public.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes, exactly.
TONY BROWN: Because the people overseas look to the United States, I would guess, for guidance as to what the United States is like for Muslims. They do. They see us as a monitor and think they can learn a lot from how we have lived and how we are presenting ourselves now in America, that will help them to know how to deal with America. And if they migrate to here, also how to live in America.
TONY BROWN: Succinctly in about a minute, how should a Muslim live in America?
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: A Muslim should do what my professor did, whom my father got to teach us Arabic. His name is Jamil Diab and he lives in Tempe, Arizona. He is no more a leader now; he turned his mosque over to his son.
When I was a little boy, I loved this man very much. I think you can tell that right now. Professor Jamil Diab was teaching us once, and he hardly ever would digress from the subject of teaching Arabic. But something was in the air, and I guess he wanted us to know how he felt about his American citizenship.
He said: "You know the Constitution of these United States is not against religion. In fact, Muslims can accept it because the Constitution of the United States is introduced by the words of the Founding Fathers that says, 'This is one nation
He also said: '"... with liberty and justice for all.' And it recognizes a Creator." I didn't forget that, and I was about 13 years old when I heard him say that. That is what Muslims should know. They should know what accounts for the stability and longevity of this government. It is not the growth of the Constitution, it is the essence in the beginning of the Constitution that recognizes G-d as the Creator.
When they come here and become citizens, they take an oath that they have to say themselves: "One Nation under G-d." It's not under Hitler.
TONY BROWN: That is America's true spirit.
IMAM W. DEEN MOHAMMED: Yes! One Nation under G-d. Muslims should first know that, so they can feel not only a citizenship but also a strong identity along with all American citizens.