Imam W. Deen Muhammad answers questions on AMCOP, Muslims and the Assistance Fund: Part I
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Editor's note: The following interview with Imam W. Deen Muhammad was conducted by Gladys Adilah Zarif. a Muslim Journal special correspondent and a veteran journalist from South Carolina, The interview was conducted July 20 white Imam Muhammad was in Columbia, S.C. for an educational banquet sponsored by the local Sister Clara Muhammad
QUES: Imam Muhammad, some believers, members of masajid, don't feel comfortable with AMCOP. They don't know of or believe there's been any or enough progress with the program, and some AMCOP members have criticized maaajid for not supporting AMCOP.
Yet many AMCOP members and believers in the masajid seem genuine in hoping and praying that the collective buying program will be a success — and want to see it thrive. Often, it seems that just personality clashes are involved.
What can masajid do to help make AMCOP a success on the local levels and nationally? What can AMCOP members do to benefit from sincere masjid members' desire to help?
ANS: I was with an Egyptian. He came to Chicago seeking an audience with the late leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he met me, he was happy to know that 1 could speak some Arabic and read Qur'an, a little in Arabic. He wanted to find out if I was really understanding the religious concept in the Qur'an. So, I told him yes, I thought I did.
Back then, I still had some un-Islamic beliefs that I couldn't recognize myself, though I was reading Qur'an in English.
So he said to me, well, you don't believe like your father believes, but I'm a student and also a professor. I believe we are to build, and not tear down.
So the first thing I do is look for something that is acceptable to Muslims, and then I'd rather build on that rather than to tear down.
My advice to AMCOP and the masajid is to do the same thing. Find something to build on, rather than tear each other down.
QUES: And that's to work together with the collective buying?
ANS: That's right.
QUES: What can those persons who are not part of a collective buying program do to benefit themselves as business people?
Would you like to see more members starting businesses and supporting those Muslims who are in business?
ANS: Yes ma'am, 1 sure would. The financial weakness of our group, that is African-American people, is mostly because of our failure to support our own business people and good business investment by out people. When we find good people investing in business, then we should give them support. And we should be willing to do without, or have what we call deferred rewards, deferred pleasure rewards, and struggle to help each other, assist each other, and struggle together, knowing that if we continue this, within a few years — two years, five years, ten years — we're going to have the same dignity that Asians have who come to America, and within two years they're being reported in the news as being more affluent than many whites.
We're here in the same situation. We'll be in a good situation if we can accept that. But the attitude that we all have is to make it for ourselves and don't help anybody else. That will keep the person miserable and weak and hurt the whole community of African-Americans.
QUES: What can the masajid do as a collective body to promote businesses or economic development in their communities?
ANS: The best thing I feel the masajid can do is make sure that the community knows that it's a religious obligation to do that. We have very clear verses in Qur'an that are not misleading and not so vague that they require any interpretation at all. They're very clear verses that tell us that it's an obligation on Muslims to be involved, to support that kind of interest.
QUES: On the issue of the national properties, can you say what is happening in the courts and what is the status of the property in Sedalia, the farmland in Georgia, and properties in Chicago?
ANS: Our original plan was to move people to those locations and use those locations as opportunities for a model to demonstrate model community life. However, the situation with the courts, the claim to the Georgia farm by the state, put us in a situation where we weren't encouraged to invest too heavily there. Some people moved there. We encouraged their movement.
In fact, we have several people living on the Georgia farm. But that situation is not good at all because if they invest they stand the risk of losing maybe all of their investment or part of their investment and then have to be moved from that site and find themselves in the situation they were in before they moved there.
A similar situation exists for the Sedalia property but not because of a court situation. It was because of us not having people whom we could trust with the management of the Sedalia property.
We could have had a college there, a teacher training college for Clara Muhammad Schools. We could have had some programs there for a small garden, a small farm operation that would have allowed the students to study Life in a practical situation and maybe at the same time do a little farming and raise a few crops or some animals.
But again, finding people whom we could trust, we couldn't do it. We couldn't find people to trust with the properties, The only answer would be to move people to the area. That was the plan and perhaps I would go myself. I had planned to go to Georgia myself, go to the area, and we all live there together, and that way, we'd have enough sincere people and responsible people watching our investment and watching our property to keep it from being neglected or becoming an even bigger financial burden on the community.
But after thinking over the situation, it was my decision to make an appeal to the community to sell all of our assets that were acquired during the time of the Temple of Islam and also those properties that were bought under my leadership which involved persons whom we later suspected of having divided interests in the negotiation process.
So the persons who negotiated the purchase of the Sedalia property are now persons who are now suspect. We would not like to keep ourselves in those situations. Our decision now is to sell those properties and after whatever the court determines our obligations are to be regarding the farm in Georgia, after those obligations are met, we would then put the money that remains into an account for investment once we saw an opportunity for reinvesting that money in a situation that would be practical and suitable, based upon what our needs are.
QUES: You're talking about putting the money to better use?
ANS: Yes. We still want an opportunity for a model community life. But I would rather see us buy land that's open, without any facilities on it.