How We Are To Establish Muslim Life In America: Part 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed's Phoenix, Arizona public address of January 21. 1990 is given here. We thank Allah for the opportunity to make this presentation to the Muslim Journal readers.)
We have to get up above the unprincipled people; we have to be disciplined, clean, principled, upright, dignified, truthful, honest, well-meaning, and conscious of things that should be respected. Then we address listeners from that position. If the people are down, we are not talking "down" to them, and we are up and not down. That is what I believe in. I believe it more and more that we should be looking to put ourselves higher and higher on the scale of excellent mind and conduct, excellent character and behavior, with significant and rich thoughts and aspirations.
You don't have to be rich to think rich. You don't have to be money to talk money. Just having that mind is going to improve your situation for getting there. And I believe that courage in me is owing much to the great courage of my father, the late leader of the then called "Nation of Islam," Elijah Muhammad.
Elijah Muhammad wag a poor man who never graduated from elementary school. He taught himself. He taught himself how to read and to spell. He educated himself. He never went to school more than three years in Georgia. And what is a third grade education? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad had the courage to tell us to go after business establishments and to work for business establishments, to establish big business. He had the courage to tell us to dignify ourselves for respect in the eyes of dignified society, not only in America but throughout the international world.
Mr. Elijah Muhammad was a man inspiring and motivating us to meet the dignified picture of image of the strongest, the best, and most progressive people on this earth. You don't aim for something small; you aim for the biggest you can respect.
Some of you love, remember and value the Honorable Elijah Mohammed because he called the "white man the devil". I think such persons are very poor; I think they are poor in hell. For I am rich in that I have the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in his rich contributions. Those who only remember him for cursing out white people, they have poverty. It hurts inside to see people excited over my father's race anger and diatribes and overlooking his main and most valuable contributions. Adding that the anger and diatribes were in order in the face of brutal conditions on us back there. But I am in the desert today and that is why I am talking like this!
Let us understand what we are facing in America when we want to make progress with our life and establish it as Muslims. We are by our racial make-up African Americans. We have a few people among us who are not African Americans. But for the most part our gatherings are African American, and therefore, we have to depend upon an African American association of people for our activities and steps toward progress.
We are not the typical African American in the society of America, We have Al-Islam in our lives, and it makes us different. Some of you are not aware of that. To not be aware of that is to put yourself in a bad situation. Al-Islam should be seen as your distinction. And if you are not different, then something is terribly wrong. An African American Muslim is not to be just typical of African Americans. An African American Muslim should be distinguished among the African American crowds.
Now, to try to distinguish yourself by wearing a fez or the Neru suit or Pakistani dress or the cloaks of the Saudis is not good enough. That will not help you reach the goal line of the "black" race. For anyone can go to Hollywood or to the TV sets and see actors wearing such dress. I wear American dress. However, I also see my brothers who are African Americans and are wearing eastern clothes, and I do not disrespect them. I see them and hope that they do have the distinct Islamic life and are just covered in those clothes. I am hoping that they do have the substance of the Islamic life. But when I see one that is just under covers without religious substance, it hurts.
And also, we do not want to go to extremes and dress ourselves externally and internally to be seen with the looks of American people. For we should want to set an example for our American people. We want to be an influence with our Muslim life and with our behavior to influence American lifestyles. We would like to be a factor for supporting commendable change in America's behavioral identity. We hope that one day there will be more strong Americans who would have grown stronger with their contacts with Muslim life and Muslim contribution to the genuineness and colorfulness of life. Groups gain by being exposed to the excellence of one another.
We are not looking to take on any group's weaknesses. We want to keep our excellence, and if their excellence is compatible with ours, then we appreciate that and love those outside our group even more as citizens of this country and will identify with them even more because of that compatibility. Bui we will never exchange ours (our life) for theirs. To do so would make ourselves fools. If you know your religion, and are a true believer, you will appreciate what I am saying.
Americans, we are supposed to be the most liberal people in the international world, and in a sense we are. We are supposed to be the most human people in the international world. And in a sense we are. We are supposed to be freer than any other people in the international world. And in a sense we are. But we have real serious behavioral problems and "we Americans" know that.
African Americans, look at our history as a people. A little better than one hundred years ago, we were slaves. There are a lot of us who would like to forget that, and a lot of us have forgotten that. Some of our children today don't know that. And that is a shame. You have heard the words of the educator who speaks of people who forget their past and, therefore, are likely to repeat it. So this forgetting is a shame on us, that we do not keep our people or even our own children informed of the history shaping encounters in the life of the group.
It was just a little better than one hundred years ago that this country had us as its slaves. And a little more than about twenty-five years ago the law in this country was for whites and not for us. That was the case in many of the states of this country. Even in the North, where we thought it was good, there were the sentiments of the courts not favoring us, favoring "whites". It was hard to find real justice even in the north.
I am not saying all of that is done away with. But at least the law has changed on the books. At least it is not in the law anymore, and it is not recognized as acceptable anymore for a judge or a court to favor some groups over others and disrespect the obligation to do justice. In the United States, that is not accepted anymore, although it still happens. And we are not the only victims. Other people are victims of racial arrogance.
Certain problems of social immaturity and covert evils are going to continue. That is why we have to always be enlisted in the army of the righteous and respond as we should when we see injustice. We are always to be on the side of those who are fighting for justice.
We look at the history of our people and we see what has happened. We have come from slavery to freedom. We have come from separation, segregation and discrimination to be granted equal opportunity and inclusion. Some of you are saying, "We don't have that yet!" But the talk you are talking now has nothing to do with race. There are other people, even "whites", who do not have it. In fact there are many in this country who do not even have what we have. They do not have the opportunity opened to us to rise in the political life. Some others are not even accepted right now in the political life. I will not name any ethnic group, but if you think a little you will identify some unfavored members.
If you do not have education or resources to impress the people with power and big holdings, then you are not wanted among them. Then you are going to have to really get something going for you or else you will have to press real hard to bring a lot of attention to your case in order to go forward. This situation of today is not something aimed only against African American people. It is the attitude of spoiled establishment — to keep all of those who don't have ("have nots") out! That is the situation all over this world. Don't think that it is any different across the waters. In most places across the waters you (have nots) will find it even more difficult.
As Americans we are free now in this country, and an elite among us is very wealthy, but oppressed. So just having the money is not enough. For some of us have plenty. Some of us also have high education. Look at Bill Cosby. He has a doctorate and is also a rich man. But do you think he feels comfortable? Do you think he feels no burden? Some of the most miserable are those with high education and money. It is because they discovered you can be rich and highly educated and people will recognize you in the unfavored group and treat you with disrespect.
They have one picture of you as the achiever, as the one who succeeded. And they have another picture of you as a member of a lot which is a failure. And even though they appreciate you as the achiever, they do not want you hanging around them too long or getting too close to them, because you are a member of a people who are a failure. This ia a situation we have to be aware of... (To be continued..)