February 7, 1992
African American History Month: State Of The African American In Review
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(These excerpts were taken from the presentations made by Imam W. Deen Mohammed at the Annual Conference of the Urban League's Minneapolis, Minnesota Chapter, December 6, 1991.)
The Sincere Approach to Problem Solving
If there are people who are not really close to me, like my mother and father (although they are no longer living), my sisters and brothers, wife and children, except for that few who are close to me as family, when other people address me, I don't like for them to address my heart or my emotions and bypass my intelligence. I think that is a good way to identify those who are not sincere or not really having our best interest at heart. When they start addressing our emotions and our hearts and are bypassing our intelligence, then something is wrong.
Some of us think the heart is more intelligent than the brain, but we can have foolish hearts. For people who have problems, the best thing we can do is be straight with them. Be sincere; do not deceive them; don't exploit their diseases or their handicaps or their miseries. Don't make a business on their problems. To be sincere and to help them is the best thing we can do.
We should not think ourselves alone, our young men and youth males alone, as troubled people. We should know that the same things that are affecting our lives in a negative way are also affecting the lives of all Americans. I believe that the Urban League leaders are very much aware of that.
I think the position taken by the Urban League says, "We want to be responsible for our own, but all of us have to acknowledge each other. We cannot just be concerned about ourselves." For one, as a Muslim, when I leave here, and I hope I do get the papers from the workshops and have already requested that whenever I attend any workshops or conference. I will study those, and believe me, I will look for answers for all Americans and not just for black Americans or African Americans.
Part of my talk which was not delivered [due to] the time available was on the need for us to build alliances with other American groups who suffer the same kind of problems that we have. That is very important for us. We must build alliances even [for us] with southern whites. We need a new attitude towards southern whites. There are great opportunities in the south for us as business men and women. But we need a better attitude towards the "white" race and towards southern white people.
How we can regain our sense of hope is also a big requisition. We believe that the consequences of all actions depend upon the nature of the intention. Make our intention right and encourage others to purify their intention. I think most of our problems are internal now; they are not external. They are multiplying externally because we are becoming more and more deficient internally. I am sounding like a priest or preacher or minister to you all the time, for that is where I see the answer. I am giving you the best that I can see.
If we want to have a better situation in this world, to improve our spiritual state where we will be more hopeful and more prepared to meet the challenges out here in the world, I think we need to do a little soul searching and make sure that we are internally strong. Let us purify our intentions. What else can we do? We can talk more on the "up" notes and less on the "down" notes. We can do more preaching of hope and a little bit less preaching of doom, and the result will be a rise in hope.
I think I have implied very clearly that we need to develop our neighborhoods and our homes. The statement I made implied that we need to contribute to the cultural development of our life. We need that very badly. And we need some real concrete structures to help that. As Muslims we are going to do a lot to provide some concrete structures. In Chicago we have one very impressive mosque. Now, you will call it Islamic but I also call it African. Because when you study the history of our people in Africa you can look and find that they [many] are Muslim.
The great percentage of our people in Africa are Muslims and were Muslims. And the mosque is part of their culture, and there is the influence of "Islam" on their culture. I would like to sec that [mosque buildings] contribute to the beautiful cultural plurality that we have in America. If you can walk down the street as young men and see more mosques and know that that also came from your heritage, even if you are not a Muslim I think it will do something to give you more hope and more of a sense of dignity. There are some concrete things we can do and we are concentrating on that too.
Survival of the African American
Modernization and the crowding of life have hurt the family. If we would do a few little simple things, we can improve the situation. If the man has a job, he has something. He does not have to be the father. Any man in the house, the uncle or the brother or any adult male in the house can be that needed role model. It is best that it be the father. But if any male at home can let the children see the positive things he is doing, it can make a difference. Most often the children do not know what you are doing on a job. They know nothing about your job. Let them see you at your job.
Do not be idle in your house just watching television or listening to records. Get up and paint the house. Paint the room. Nail a board back in place. Hang a picture. Try to fix the leaking sink. Even if you fail, at least try. Do anything to show you have industry in you. Nature made life so that fathers and the adult males, the growing boys had to be involved in something constructive. They had to do something of work. Nature made them to love work.
This crowded world of man, this busy play-world life of man makes most of us hate work. That condition is not natural and is not good for our souls. If you have a job and the boss will let you take your children on the job, one day just let them come and watch you for five to fifteen minutes at work on your job. Then tell someone to take them home. That will do wonders.
If they see you doing nothing but sitting around like a spoiled hen, they will have no hope in you. These youngsters out in the streets are lost because they have nothing at home to give them hope. Many have now taken on the responsibility for the home.
You said you may have hungry children: In our religion, if you are going outside to steal something or rob somebody to get something to feed a hungry mouth, you will not be treated like the person who does not have that degree of necessity. You may not be given any punishment at all. In fact, even if you are given punishment, you are supposed to get assistance too. You won't be kept in that desperate situation. That is our religion. I am not saying all Muslim societies in the world measure up to that responsibility. But that is our religion, and the heads of the Islamic states would agree if they were here.
I think that is nothing but the expression of good human nature. Allah has put the law in us, in our better nature. Our nature tells us we are not supposed to punish them when they were forced by necessity to go and get something to feed a hungry child at home or to feed themselves. Really, the whole attitude towards criminal behavior needs changing. Much of the criminal behavior that we call criminal is not the fault of the criminals as much as it is the fault of the society.
But even that is not all of the answer. And I don't think any of us have all of the answers right now. We have to do the best we can for each other and avoid sin. Brother, avoid sin. Sin will be punished.