The Muslim Journal
Interview With Imam W. Deen Mohammed: Part 2
NO: There has been a lot of fascination with the Year 2000. People have used the word Millennium in just about everything. How should we as Muslims view this period? Are we to expect any special benefit?
IWDM: Yes, there is a caution and then there is also a spiritual embrace with the Christians in their or The New Millennium. The caution is this, that this is not our New Millennium, it is the Christian's Calendar. But I think we should embrace the Christians in their spirit of celebration, because there has been an Islamic revival going on for at least 60 years and perhaps longer.
There was the late Maulana Maududi from Pakistan and there have been other Islamic reform leaders from Africa and other places.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, who was confused and very difficult to understand, had a spirit to contribute to the revival of Islam in the world. From him and his son, Imam W. Deen Mohammad my leader, and because of these people's contribution, we have a renewal of Islamic spirit and life in these United States.
The Jews also have been experiencing difficulty in holding their children, keeping their children at home, from being affected by the corrupt culture of public life. All of us have been affected by that Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims. So you will see that there are leaders among them too, who are taking a second look at how they have perceived their religion and how they have been living their religion.
There is a kind of revival going on everywhere. It is a general revival, a world revival. It is a revival of the spirit and purity of religion in the "Faith Communities of the World." That is what we are experiencing. I don't think it is just a Christian Jubilee- It just so happens that they (Christians) are calling this the Third Millennium. But this time period is a celebration for all of us.
We are coming into new minds, better minds and we are coming to grips with this; we should have come to grips a long time ago, like with justice in Islam. We have not respected justice in Islam, for instance justice for our poor people, justice for the suffering people of the world.
To address the tyrants, there is a recent author of a book called "Opposition" named Professor Basool. He dedicated his book to one of the Khalifs, Khalif Omar (may G-d be pleased with him The author questioned the resent history of Modern Islamic leaders, how they have neglected to address the tyrants who deny the Muslim public the right to live their lives as Muslims, without their life being dictated to by oppressors.
We have many oppressors in the Islamic world and dictators who do not see themselves as oppressors, but there are many dictators in the Islamic world. The rule of consensus and the rule of shura do not exist. The Prophet (PBUH) said: "The hand of G-d is on the majority," This means the Rule of G-d is over the people and the leaders should respect that it is G-d's Rule over the people. And the people should be free to see what is G-d's way for them and live that way.
The ruler should support that, whether it is the Imam, Minister or religious leader or not, he can be strictly political or strictly government. The ruler should guarantee the people the right to follow the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). They are not doing that. So we are living in a time in the Bible for the whole world. Muslims have serious need for reform in Islamic communities and the world.
NO: In your recent travels abroad, to Rome, Israel and Jerusalem, you didn't go alone. You took a sizable delegation of Muslim American Society members with you. Will you share with our readers the benefit of taking a large delegation and how different it was from going with a few aids.
IWDM: Rome, Jerusalem, Israel, Jordan and Damascus, Syria, These were opportunities that opened up to us. We did not plan this. We only wanted to embrace good people. They invited us to join them. So it happened.
With the Focolare people, we embraced them. They are good Christians in character and in purpose. Their purpose and their mission is very clean and very powerful. They call it the Principle of Christ's Love. They live it; they don't just say it. They live it. They practice sharing with each other. They practice helping with the family and include people of other religions into their movement, which is a moral movement, conceived early during World War II by their leader Chiara Lubich.
So we got to know that movement and have a personal acquaintance with their leader Chiara Lubich. My sincere embrace is in what they stand for has brought me to be accepted in many cities where they have offices and followers. So Rome was a visit that was not all together owing to the Focolare movement or their officials.
It was also because of the Archbishop of Baltimore Cardinal Keeler. I met with him too, and I spoke to him openly and shared with him very serious thoughts of mine. And he appreciated that openness and that seriousness, and he wanted to arrange a visit to the Vatican for me.
So it was the Archbishop of Baltimore and the Focolare people. It was their combined support of me and my desire to have a visit to the Vatican and to have an audience with his Holiness Pope John Paul II, a man whom I have admired ever since he became leader.
Once again that is a leader not just for the Catholics; he is a leader for humanity. I think any sincere leader in religion should respect such a leader and recognize their contributions and should not let any differences in religion cause us to withhold support from people like that. Because they are making great contributions to the betterment of this whole world. So I wanted an audience with him, and I got it.
And I have returned to the Vatican, as you know, with leaders representing different faiths of the world, hosted by his Holiness John Paul II. We were honored to have been present there and to be one of the presenters.
The trip to Israel came because of their knowledge of my invitation to be at the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the international gathering there, for their seventh annual anniversary in Amman, Jordan, and hosted by the King and the Prince of Jordan.
So the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Israel invited me also to be his guest to attend an interfaith gathering, dialoguing on religious peace, resolving conflict, etc. In Israel, one of the persons contributing to that meeting is a friend of mine and president of the same organization that I am affiliated with, the Conference on World Peace. He is Rabbi David Rosen. When I heard he was involved, I was anxious to get an invitation.
So I got an invitation to Israel, and I visited Israel with Imam Abdul Karim Hasan. He took great pictures and gave a% on that trip, w conference at the World Conference on Peace. The Israel official took me by bus to the Interfaith Dinner in Amman, Jordan, from Israel.
It was a wonderful trip. I saw the Sea of Galilee. I know we have read about it in the Bible. I saw a lot over there. I saw the place where King Saul fought with his men to test them. This is in the Qur'an and Bible. He wanted to see who was as strong as he was and who was not. He said whoever takes the water in his hand and drink of it continually like a horse is not of him (King Saul). Whoever takes a little in his hand would be of his supporters. I saw the pool of water there, and it comes from a source that is very clear. I said: "This water looks clear enough to drink." The Israeli host told me, "Yes, it is very clean and fit for drinking."
So this experience to me I can hardly describe to you. We have been reading about these things in the Bible, the ancient times and reading the stories in Qur'an. And now I am at the pool! You know, it really was a great experience. But it was really a great experience for me, because I represent a strong following of Muslims in America who have great and special history of our very special life and very special plight and peculiar circumstances. That made living very difficult for us in this world, and I am the leader of these people.
Now Islam has just simplified everything for us. We don't have any more confusion for our life. We don't have identity problems any more. We don't have a hang up with the past anymore. So I represent a great victory in this country for African-American people who followed the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and that's how I saw myself. So I took the advantage to mention the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. I said: "I thought he would share with me this occasion, if he had been...concept of a town or village called New Africa was introduced. Does the establishment of the CPC enhance the idea of New Africa? Can we envision an area where our homes are in walking distance to our stores, theaters, restaurants, masajid, schools and other establishments? Would you elaborate?
IWDM: We have been struggling since we realized our life had been taken away from us by White folks during slavery. We have been struggling since then. The struggle is to get more and more of our life. We have joined officials who are working hard doing their job quietly and they are doing a great job. I think we should work quietly. They (officials) are working quietly to bring help to the neighborhoods, help to their congregation so that their congregation will have a good spiritual life and also a good material life for African American people.
I do believe we are going to be successful in addressing the cultural needs as well as the material. We will be looking for opportunities to have theaters that will be healing centers, good entertainment designed to heal the soul and the mind, to free the mind for productive work. By the way, you did a song for us. That song was about the determination of the oppressed to take charge of their life: "The rise of a mighty people."
So you are expected to do some more of that; you are obligated to do more of that, and eventually we will have our theaters showing Islam, showing us as Muslims, who accepted our responsibilities to better the environment we share with Christians and others. CPC is the spear head of that area.
NO: In the area of Presidential politics, the trends seem to indicate that the Republicans will line up behind George Bush Jr., and Democrats behind Vice-President Al Gore. I remember in the past you and I both were “Bush men”....That was the Daddy Bush, not the son. I think we have an obligation to get the true picture of these candidates and give that picture to our voting public. The Muslim Journal has to do that. We should be given campaign information that is circulated on all the candidates. Our readers should be able to make informed choices.
NO: I think you just answered my question, in terms of cultural activity poetry, drama, theater, songs, etc. Are we manifesting the growth that you anticipated or would you like to see more of this activity? Would you elaborate?
IWDM: Much more. I am happy to see the amount of support we do have around the country. Sis. Saleemah Omar, the Jazz Pianist, is a young woman, but she has years. She has a strong interest in creating plays for entertainment. Her aim is to create a vehicle for our Muslim and community life and to carry a message to us, to our people who want to rise with us, our new spirit, our new sense of concerts. I support her because of what she will produce will have the spirit of faith in it.
Wali Ali is another one I think we are going to get a lot of help from. Sis. Saleemah Omar, Wali Ali, and a few others I hope will just take the lead, along with yourself. At the next annual convention which will be in Chicago, artists of good character like Saleemah Omar, Wali Ali, yourself and others should connect and plan a workshop. And someone from the group should also address the convention, if it is no more than five minutes, to let us know what we are to expect from our artists in the future, in terms of us putting our spirit into the popular culture.
NO: Last question pertaining to our youth. Have you observed the kind of enthusiasm for Islam in our youth that is necessary for healthy Islamic growth? Would you...hope and..for the next generation?
IWDM: Yes, we want the youth to assume leadership positions, not just for the present but for the future. That means we want them to study what we have accomplished so far and study our present leaders. We have many of them -myself of course; we have Plemon El-Amin, Imam of the Atlanta Masjid; he is the convener of the MAS Shura and Director of Education for the Atlanta Muslim School system. It is the most impressive effort in education, in the country.
There are others, Imam Faheem Shuaibe in Oakland Calif., who is an outstanding leader, great speech maker and all around leader, who is responsible for education for his congregation. He has done a good job in propagating Islam in the proper image in the Oakland area. He is a speaker who is wanted by many. He goes all over the United States.
There is also Qasim Ahmed, who I have worked with in Chicago on Stony Island, when I was Resident Imam and responsible for the school. He is the Imam in Houston, Texas. We have many of them (leaders).
There are also some females coming to the forefront, who are Islamic leaders. We have to understand that Islamic leadership is not only for males, it is for males and females. And that is how it was in the time of our Prophet (PBUH) and after - the way it will always be. Females can be raised to high positions as scholars, students of religion of Al-Islam, as servants of society. They can rise to positions that will demand that we give recognition. And we have some females, I don't want to give any names, but I know at least ten sisters in this community who in my opinion deserve to be counted among the leaders of Islam for us in America.
NO: I heard a tape I think it was on the West Coast, where you told the sisters to step forward.
IWDM: Yes, I saw them coming forward. I wanted to let them know that I was cheering them on. Sis. Ayesha who is over our paper is definitely one (leader). Yes siree. So we have leaders, and we want our youth to see them. Don't just look at brothers and see men only, but they should look and recognize our sisters who are leaders in this community and learn from them and seek to support the present leadership.
As recently as, I say, the last five years, we have seen women come forward. Females from our community have presented themselves as people who have great leadership qualifications for the Islamic community in America. So we want our youth to know sisters, to learn from them and to learn from the male leaders like Imam Plemon El-Amin of Atlanta, from my spokesperson for my Ministries - Earl Abdul-Malik Mohammed, Qasim Ahmed and Faheem Shuiabe.
The youth may not have the tendency to look at Old Soldiers, but these old soldiers are probably younger than I am. They should also look at those who had positions in the time of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and they are still leaders now. So they should look closely at these people and study and look to see what contribution we all are making, separately and all together.
Study to see if we can offer a platform to stand up on, a position to support the future in these United States of America. If they can't, then they should be looking for another organization. That is what I invite all our youth in our organization to do.
NO: Brother Imam, I thank you for this time. I hope I didn't hold you too long. Is there anything you would like to say?
IWDM: No, nothing but Eid is coming up. We have a high spirit of sentiments dancing inside of us while we get ready to celebrate the great Eidul Fitr. We want to join all the believers in that great celebration at the conclusion of the great fast month, the Eidul Fitr. We wish them happy blessed Eid.