Reprinted from the Muslim Journal 9-20-02 to 9-27-02
A Poor Community Needs Strong Identity
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(The following address was given by Imam W. Deen Mohammed in Detroit, Mich., on Sat., July 13, 2002.)
Praise be to G-d, the Lord and Cherisher of all the worlds. We witness that He is One and cares about all of His creation, especially the best of human creation the Prophets and Messengers and their excellent traditions.
City Of Our Beginnings
This city of Detroit is called the "city of our beginnings," with Temple No. 1, and it will always have special meaning. As well as Chicago, which is the second place established for our association with Temple No. 2.
Chicago will always be special, for it had the convention spirit or Savior's Day Spirit that is still with us and will stay with us. We will give this city of Temple No. 1, Detroit, special attention and the city of Chicago special attention.
These temples were named and numbered. I am sure that before these temples were named and numbered, a lot of thought was given to it. Washington, D.C., was Temple No. 4. Milwaukee was Temple No. 3. The temple numbers went way up. I have studied the names and cities and numbers and it was not something done at random.
Serious thought was put into this, so that the work of those who did it reached the minds of special people in religion, giving a message to their minds, so that they would recognize the builders of the Lost Found Nation of Islam in America for their wisdom.
I had to say that because my growth as a religious student would never have started, if I hadn't been put in those circumstances as the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, who built the Nation of Islam, following the plans of his teacher who was a foreigner or from outside of the United States of America.
He was called W.D. Fard or Mr. W. F. Muhammad, W. Fard Muhammad, W. D. Muhammad or Wallace D. Fard. And I was the favorite son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, in that I was named after his teacher, Mr. W. D. Muhammad.
My name was given to me before I was born. His teachings had already been given, and he told my mother, "Give him my name." His name also was Wallace D. Fard.
You may be surprised that this didn't bother me as a child. I was not thinking about how I was named. Others would have to remind me, "Do you know you were named this and that such and such thing happened?" As a child, nothing registered.
But as I grew older and saw problems and saw that my father needed help and wanted help, I joined the helpers with his encouragement. Then I began to think about those things, but before I did not. I now see that a lot of thought was put into the work of the LostFound Nation of Islam in North America, as well as study.
Obviously, somebody really searched the scriptures and searched knowledge for help to do what they wanted to do.
Let me say that I am happy to see you all here, the Muslims from Detroit and the surrounding areas in the state of Michigan and those who have come from Chicago and other places even more distant. We are very happy to be accommodated so nicely here, and we thank Allah for the work that you have done in support of W.D.M. Ministry and in support of our representative, Imam E. Abdulmalik Mohammed.
Congratulations to all of you for the good work you have done to make this occasion a good one for all of us. Special greetings also to our friends and admirers from the Christian public. We welcome you and appreciate you being with us on this occasion.
A Whole New Reality
We have a whole new reality that we are looking at now in these times. When I was a young man or young minister for father in Chicago, then he authorized me to be the Minister at the Temple in Philadelphia, and I became a resident minister. In those days, circumstances were quite different for all of us as African Americans.
Although things got better for us as a people in America, there was still discrimination everywhere and segregation in the South. But you didn't have to go South to experience discrimination. There was plenty ugly discrimination in Chicago where I lived. Those things are behind us now, for the most part.
Also our awareness of Islam is so great now. We were struggling to be upright in Islam then, when Islam was not popular and Muslims were not popular in these United States. Now with the increased number of citizens who have recently come from their land and established their citizenship in the United States of America, we have a popular Muslim public now in America.
Cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and in Detroit for a long time, you would have a press aware that you had Muslims in the citizenry. And that is true of other cities.
These Muslims who come here from other parts of the Islamic world come here for different reasons. But the majority of them come here for the same reasons the Christians came to this newly discovered part of the world. They came here from conditions that were bad for them in their countries.
They came here to have a better situation for themselves or at least have the opportunity to work themselves into a better situation. There was a wilderness here. It was not easy for them to come here.
They had to face diseases here that they were not use to in their country and to face other hardships in discovering the land and map out areas in which they were to live in and open up the wilderness for life that they wanted to have here.
However, it was attractive because they would be invited to come here and were given the freedom to practice their religion as they wished to. They were invited to come to a land that offered protection for the Freedom of Religion.
I am also sure that many of the immigrants who come here also come here believing that the rights they have to their own religion and own way of life are protected in this great country called the United States of America.
That is true. We know as African Americans, more so than anybody else, that the invitation can be there, but that does not mean you are going to have the opportunities. You have to constantly struggle and work to make sure that you have a good situation in these United States of America.
There is always somebody who wants to get over on you or wants to progress at your expense. This is the way of the world, that some places are better than others. We have a good situation, where you can go to court and have your rights heard and most likely respected in the courts of these United States.
More Than Indigenous, We Are Native Americans
What brings people here? Opportunity to have your own life. This is what we want, and we are indigenous Muslims. That is, we don't have any way to connect back to Africa from where we came from. Most of us don't know what part of Africa we came from. That is hopeless for us. We have to accept that we are Africans and are African Americans.
But we can't start from Africa, because we were completely separated from that history and lifeline. Our lifeline was severed with slavery. We have to understand that our lifeline starts for us in every practical sense here in these United States of America.
So we are more than just indigenous; we use that word, but I am not satisfied with it. We are "native Americans" along with the Indians. They were here physically before us, but we didn't have any human presence, until we got it right here in this country.
The past was lost, and we are wasting time trying to find it. We should want to know Africa, know the Motherland and want to stay in touch with it. And as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad advised us, we should have some meaningful ties with our people in Africa. Economics and business would be good ties, as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad advised us, and we have started.
The shirt I have on today was made in our factory in the Senegal. I met with the sister who heads the factory, and I told her where to put the pockets, one small pocket and two large pockets. We think that we can retail this shirt somewhere between $25 and $30. This is 100 percent linen, and it feels good and looks good.
Recognizing Total Muslim American Population
We African Americans have to realize that it would be absolutely stupid on our part if we try to plan our life in America without recognizing the big numbers that we have in the United States now, who have come from other lands and have become citizens of the United States and are Muslims.
They are from Pakistan and India and different parts of Africa, from Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. from Europe and are all here.
For the immigrant Muslims, we can say that Detroit is No. 1. They were here before my father met his teacher and got something started for us. I was born on Yemen Street, a street named for them, in Hamtramck, Mich.
We as Muslims should not plan our future in America without at least having a way of communicating with them, so that at certain times we meet with their planners or shuraa or consultative body and discuss the future of not just one of OB hot for all of us in America.
This is what we are working for and this is what we hope to yet and we will never be happy, until we have that. That Muslims in America will be working to have better conditions for our children to come, for many; many generations in the future. We have to think that way and we have to make it that way, and we will — insha Allah.
We Need A Presence
When you don’t have a presence, you don’t feel so good in your heart or in your soul. You need a presence. When you have a nice home on the block in the neighborhood, you see that home and it does you good inside. That is an achievement for you and a sign of your presence in the neighborhood.
But if you live there and have no home or what you have looks so bad, it brings your spirit down rather than lifting it up, then you don't feel so good in that neighborhood or on that block.
The whole of the United States is like a neighborhood, and if you don't have any presence on the landscape of this great Nation that makes you feel good inside, we can talk about all the advantages and progress that we have, but it is not going to change the bad feeling inside.
People come to the land to drive their stake into the ground and build something with their own hands that they can leave to their children, that they value and that their children can value and will inspire their children to come to work for even more and even better.
First, you need to know this psychological support. No matter how much you dislike your life in a country, as long as you are going to be living in that country and you are not going to be leaving that country, then you have to come up with a psychology that will support your industry. You cannot be industrious and build on something that you do not have faith in.
You can't invest in the United States, in better homes and better neighborhoods and in factories, etc., if you don't have faith in your own life and that you will be protected there. Now, if situations are so bad that you can't have that kind of faith, you have to have a powerful psychology working for you.
You have to realize: "I'm not going anywhere. These are my circumstances and I have to live with them, until I can change them. This isn't Whitey's Land. This is my land!" This is the kind of psychology you need.