Bilalian News Interview With Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad
BN: Brother Imam, on July 4th there will be the great New World Patriotism Day Parade: "The march for human dignity." This concept was originated by you and it now has mushroomed into a very, very big parade. Thousands of people are going to embrace the parade and we would like to know from you what the term "New World" means?
WDM: Brother Kashif—patriotism, as we know, is an element in the social life of all people and we are all patriotic. The element of patriotism is always with us, but patriotism changes for us and sometimes we don't see or we don't identify the new patriotism. The old patriotism is still with us in our conscience so we don't identify the new patriotism.
What I mean by New World, is the unfolding or revealing of something that was with this country when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. That desire for a world wherein all the good human aspirations would be respected by the nation and by
the people of that nation, and that no one would be denied the free expression of his noble human aspirations and he would be able to pursue those aspirations.
That kind of environment doesn't come until moral freedom comes. That is, when people are able to express H-eely what they feel in their moral sentiments. This, to me, is the greatest difficulty for a society; to let the moral goodness just come out freely from all of the people. And I believe that the hurdles that we have come over — the hurdles of racism and now materialism—are now dying.
Materialism and racism are still in the world, but I believe the "spirit" of the American people now is not racist and is not materialistic, and I am sure that what we are coming into now is the New World. That world that the Founding Fathers anticipated; the New World that is suggested in the lines of the Preamble to the Constitution that says that "All men are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights...."
This concept of man and the concept of the State being a State under God, a State respecting God is really a way of saying or a way of expressing something else. That is, the need for the proper respect for individuals, for each and every individual regardless to his moral, religious persuasion — the respect for each individual. And when we see all beings as the creation of one God, and a nation and its people accountable to a God, then in that kind of thinking we have respect for each individual. We have a kind of sacred respect for each individual.
By New World we mean trying to help that spirit come to birth that has always been in the country. It is in the Constitution and it always has been in the country, but it has been overlooked and ignored, and even suppressed.
And now, I see the climate is right for the rebirth of this kind of respect for human beings, a sacred respect for human beings, for human life, for human aspirations.
President Carter, himself, has done a great job to keep this spirit alive. To me, this opens the way for us to be patriotic citizens again. When I say New World, I'm talking about the world that the Preamble to the Constitution alludes to, the world that Quakers and many others dreamed of when they came to this country.
BN: Many people often are disturbed over some of the news reports that we hear about a rise in racism, some Klan violence here and there, and the question of U.S. international posture, and some congressional leaders' support of foreign governments where racism and oppression are involved. Should we look at these things as residue of the past, or a dying gasp?
WDM: Well, I think that even for the greater part of the anguish and hostility we see in what we call the racist people, and the disgust that is expressed by some people in government for the way the nation is going or moving, might be an expression of the same forces that are moving us all. Wherein some people don't have the faith that others have in the future of the country, they will express the spirit differently.
But I think that our nature is rebelling against lies, rebelling against falsehoods; the nature is rebelling against disorder, rebelling against stagnation—it is the same nature. Whereas ours expresses itself in faith in the future of the American people, others are attacking the things that they think stand in the way of their own human aspirations.
I believe it's the same spirit, and I think that as the new life that I see -respect for human dignity, cries for respect, for human dignity and recognition of the element of patriotism—that spirit is so vital to society that society must work to preserve the vital institutions, the vital structure of life even when we are bitter and dissatisfied; we still have to preserve some structure for our society.
As we preach this more, and as more people come out in support of this, I believe that those people who are very emotional now, and those emotionally , enraged are going to hear, eventually, the new call and they are going to be able to distinguish it from the old call of blind integration, the old call of blind unity.
We are not asking the people to come into any blind unity or into any blind patriotism, we are asking them to come into something that is natural, that is very natural for all of us. We are asking them to see society as a whole, as an interrelated whole, and to see that when you break this wholeness you do damage to every member in the society; you put in jeopardy every member in the society. That's what we are calling the people to, we are not calling them to a fanatical patriotism.
BN: The parade topics will stress family life and human dignity. Why is it so necessary to stress or re-stress family life?
WDM: The life of a society is the life of the family. People live as families and even when they break up their immediate family or the natural family, the society becomes a substitute for those individuals. So the family concept and the sense of family life or family existence stays with the individual. He may not identify it as family, but it is basically the same need.
Life begins in a small family; it doesn't start in the open society. Life starts in a small, natural setting, and I think that civilization toppled, riot because society failed, but because family institutions failed. If we can get strong families, we'll have the respect that we need in society for life.
Respect for life is lost when people don't keep the healthy family values in the conscience. Family generates that respect for life in a natural way. When people lose respect for the institutions, the only way to get it back is to give family life the freedom; give the family the environmental conditions that they need; give them the recognition that they need.
Now we don't have the power to just make the environmental conditions conducive to good family growth in this country, but we do have the power now (to exhibit this concept in this parade). Many people lost respect for the family. This parade now is a city parade and I think a parade given by the people of Chicago does have the power to influence respect again. And when we come to respect the family again, then we will be on the way to creating, to taking the proper steps, even the sacrifices, to make the environment in our city conducive to the good growth of family life.
BN: Do you feel that these concepts will truly stand out with the festive atmosphere of the parade and the other things that will be taking place?
WDM: Yes, Sir, I certainly do, because nature knows what the mind forgets, and a lot of the frustrations that we are experiencing—depression that we experience in the big city life— the nature is trying to tell you that you have stepped too far away; you have gone too far away from home life; you have gone too far away from the family love.
And when these people see the physical family in this parade and the respect that this parade gives the mother and the father and the children, the home life—when they see that, I think, they will then be closer. The ear will come closer to the nature that's in all of us and something is going to rise up and really speak to all of us during this parade.
BN: The parade is for all races and all people of all national origins. Does the fact that the response has been so overwhelming indicate that the American people are ready to become a future "New Jerusalem"?
WDM: Old Jerusalem was a community that represented the ideal society for the Jewish people. With Christianity came the concept of New Jerusalem, the ideal society for all people, and I believe that as the Jews grew from nationalism to universalism and came to be the leaders of Christianity in the apostles of the New Testament, I think we are seeing in America now, a nation that started out with a strong nationalistic spirit; and now we see an America whose nationalism is becoming universalism and I'm sure that the America we are coming into now will be that symbolic New Jerusalem.
BN: And in Al-Islam, the concept of universality has always been held high....
WDM: Yes, Sir — the universal concept of the human essence and the human aspirations is really Al-Islam; that this is Islamic, yes, Sir.
BN: How important has been the input of the WCIW in this parade?
WDM: Very much. I think the reason why we are such an important factor is because we have expressed our natural aspirations in very strange ways in the past, and I think what we see in us is a kind of peculiar growth, natural growth, like in the history of America.
America has been very peculiar; two extremes have been moving together. It has been hard to tell whether America was left-handed or right-handed— morally speaking. The way that she has treated some of her citizens it is hard to tell, and the way that she has treated some of the foreign nations, it is hard to tell whether America has been a right-handed human being or a left-handed human being (nation).
Also, when you study the history of the Nation of Islam, and especially the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which on the one side were very antagonistic towards the government and the Caucasian race, and on the other side very respectful.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad bred real respect in his Nation of Islam for property, for government, for law enforcement. So this peculiar nation now has come out into the broad-stream life as the World Community of Al-Islam in the West, and now we are in the forefront advocating the return to a healthy element of patriotism. I believe that because of our peculiar background we are very significant in this parade and in this new movement.
BN: What do you feel is the most important message to be given to the people of Chicago and in America, and what will be the essence of your remarks on that day?
WDM: The old message that has been struggling for expression, I believe, since man stepped out of his private world to meet his neighbor.
And that message is a message that God has been bringing home to us through His great Prophets — and it has become really clear in the universal message we call the Holy Quran—that message is this: that society will become safe and secure when the idea or
concept of the universal human being becomes the central focus of the society.
BN: There will be hundreds of mothers, hundreds of babies in this parade. What does this dramatize and what is the significance in this for women and children?
WDM: Well, it says that our participation in the parade is intended to carry this message: we are not going to give up the life, we are not going to give up our wives, we are not going to give up our children; we are going to struggle together, we are going to build strong family life, we are going to encourage people to marry and not divorce, and we are going to encourage fathers and mothers to invest in the future of their youngsters.
BN: The Spanish-American people, Indians and Chinese all have endorsed this parade, many of them will be having floats and they will be participating in the parade. Would you comment on this development, especially the spontaneous responses?
WDM: I understand their support in the light of the composition of their community, the Hispanic or Indian community life. They have been more Successful, though perhaps they haven't made as much progress in the world as we have in some respects, but these people— Hispanic people and the Indian people in particular—have not suffered as much disintegration of the community life, the small family life as we have and they are still close to nature. I believe they are closer to nature than we are.
Maybe they are not closer to civilization as we understand it, but I believe they are closer to nature than we are. And this is the season of the return of nature—reasserting ourselves, you know. They have seen the human life, the individual, the society and the resources in one whole, in one composite whole and they have respect for the environment—for the physical environment—and they have respect for strong family leadership.
I believe that this close family strength in them, the strong family consciousness that is still in Hispanic people and in Indian people, is what makes them come out so
enthusiastically to support this parade. The same kind of enthusiasm we have for the preservation of strong family life is what moves us to support a call for healthy patriotism.
BN: The wife of the President of the United States indicated the possibility of her coming; Mayor Jane Byrne and other mayors will be there. This is much in line with your previous statement that there is a realization all over America of the need to unify all elements—high and low.
WDM: Certainly it is. The thing that was developing, the kind of thinking that was developing in us until it just became too obvious for us to bear anymore was this kind of thinking that government is the enemy of the people and that the people are not appreciative of good government. That was the attitude; many people in government didn't have faith in the people, in the masses, and the masses didn't have faith or respect for government.
This ugliness, I think, really woke us up, and now we know that we are about to lose an important link that is necessary for a civilization to continue.
If we separate leadership from the life of the nation, the nation is sure to die, and I think the leadership—our mayors, the government leaders—they are fighting for their life, and we, the people of the community are fighting for our life. And we know that that means keeping the natural links together.
BN: Are there any last comments you would like to make?
WDM: Yes, I would like to thank the people who have helped Muslims, embraced the Muslims and encouraged the Muslims to come to the forefront.
I would like to thank all of them, and I am proud to say that this New World Patriotism Day Parade is not a Muslim parade, it's Chicago's parade.
BN: Thank you very much for the interview, and we will appreciate seeing you on the day of the parade.