On The Occasion Of 20 Years Of Leadership
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
AKM: When you came into the position of leadership, you were 42 then. So we wanted to get some comments from you in regards to your journey over the years. How do you see that journey from a personal view?
IWDM: First of all, February of 1975 for me was the beginning of a new history for Muslims in America. I felt it was just like a new day for us and a new time for a new vision of our life and where we should take our life.
For me personally, I saw it as the blessing of God, that the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad had gotten a lot of support from him and from his first followers for my own spiritual strength and faith in myself. I got a lot of encouragement from the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and from the early leaders and senior persons in his following. It was also from my family members, the encouragement to have faith in myself that I could represent the Hon. Elijah Muhammad's own mission.
When I think of his mission, I think of more than just what we saw. I think of his mission as being the future for us that was hinted or indicated in his work of trying to prepare us for the future.
When I think of those years, I also think of the serious study that I began doing in order to find direction for myself, but not just for myself. It was for all of us who were in the following of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Maybe two years before 1975, I had already started very deep studies. It was even earlier than that, I was in very concentrated study, particularly scripture.
I studied mythology too, because I believe that scripture and the language of what we called the supreme wisdom that we got from the Hon. Elijah Muhammad had a real relationship to mythology. I saw mythology as story telling, not as falsehoods. Under the mask that mythology wears on its face is a lot of truth and kin to truth.
When I think of those years, I think of along the road to where we are now was a pleasant journey. I recall dear friends who are many. I have to mention Bro. Abbass Rassoul and Bro. Shakir and yourself with all the typing you've done, and there are many others who assisted me -Bro. Lucias Bey, Minister Karriem of Baltimore, Sheikh James Shabazz.
Sheikh Shabazz was helping me with a sense of duty to Hon. Elijah Muhammad; it was the help of a dear friend.
And I am satisfied with the spiritual growth and transference of religious faith. We didn't see what we wanted until we reached the last four or five years. Up to then there was a lot of mystery in the air where we weren't sure of where we were going; there was a lot of uncertainty. But now we have removed that cloud of burden from over our heads.
God said to His followers those who were in the idolatry or ignorance in Islam, that they should praise God and shout it with more sincerity. And I see that in the large cities and small cities, even in the southern cities.
AKM: There are some in the general community who see the decline of Affirmative Action as a cloud or something to be sad about. How do you view this decline?
IWDM: I don't see it as a cloud of despair, but I do see it as a challenge to take on more responsibility in society and be responsible for more of the future of society. I see that most African American leaders are not ready to plow the hard grounds, like those leaders we had before in Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey, Benjamin Mays and others. They were militant in spirit and in mind but not in the physical sense. I like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but in my opinion he has been too much involved in getting help from the establishment and government and not asking African Americans to accept the challenge for our own life. There are some others, whom I will not name.
AKM: May I ask about one other; what about Colin Powell? A lot of people are assessing him as a possible presidential candidate. They have even researched his family's beginnings in Jamaica and followed their lives as immigrants to this country.
IWDM: I would feel very comfortable with Colin Powell as a candidate for the presidency or even as a vice presidential candidate. In my own personal opinion, he is as qualified as Eisenhower was. He has the personality and the experience and is a man of great composure. I don't think he will make foolish decisions or make any quick judgments.
AKM: Reportedly, his wife feels that he will be killed if he runs for the presidency, being an African American.
IWDM: While I can understand her fears, I don't think we have to fear any more for African American leaders than we have to fear for any others - in these times. These are crazy times in American leadership and government, and there are extreme radicals who will be a threat to whomever runs for the presidency. I don't think he would be exposed any more than anyone else. And then too, a person like Colin Powell may even get support from those with such radical views who want to see a change.
AKM: This is our 20th Year Celebration of community progress under your leadership. What message would you leave with the community on this occasion?
WDM: That no matter what we are, if we have no progress, we are not going to feel good about ourselves. But I think we will all be pleased to see how much we have accomplished in these 20 years.