1987-June / July
Barry Farber & Friends Historic Interview of W. Deen Muhammad
The following article was taken from an Interview with
W. Deen Muhammad on the Barry Farber Show, August 16,
1986, Radio Station WNCA, Strauss Communication, New York
Mr. Farber is perhaps New York's favorite radio talk show host. He has interviewed many renown persons; among his most famous, the late Malcolm X (Shabazz). The noted panel of participants on the show included Imam W. Deen Muhammad; Barry Farber, talk show host; Lorraine Colfield, U. S. Department of Education; and Anthony Spinelli, writer, Director of the East Side Conservative Club, Vice-President of the Christian Brother's Boys Association, and Member of the Lincoln Society.
We regret that the first part of his interview is missing. Due to the publication deadline, there was not sufficient time to secure all of the interview, but we do feel that the following information is very enlightening and informative, not only for Muslims, but for non-Muslims as well.
The interview has been revised, edited and put in a condensed format for publication. Subject matter has been transposed, listing each subject under a specific heading.
The Nation of Islam
B, FARBER: Are you not the inheritor of your father's organization, head of the Black Muslims?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: That's what people say, and what has been put upon me.
B. FARBER: / want the listening audience to know that Wallace Muhammad is an easy man to get to know. He appears on American broadcasts, unlike his father who was a remote figure, shrouded in religious, political, and sociological mystery. Depending on how much you know, we are going to increase your knowledge of one of the most important movements in recent America-namely, the Black Muslims.
Wallace Muhammad's late father, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, was the founder of that movement, and Malcolm X of course was the man chosen to carry forth the word of the Black Muslims. Malcolm X was probably the most effective spokesperson at that time.
In quoting William Worthy, the black journalist, he says that the lack Muslim Movement recruited most of its members inside of prison.
The Hate That Hate Produced
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I am aware of that. In fact, most news people who studied the organization at that time weren't permitted to come inside, and they weren't fortunate enough to get an interview with Malcolm or with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They had to go on the knowledge that was available to them, and they came to that conclusion after talking to the police departments, who said that most of the converts were coming from the institutions. That is because the police departments appreciated the reform.
Do you remember the Mike Wallace presentation about the Nation of Islam (The Black Muslims), which he titled, "The Hate that Hate Produced?" The way he put it is the way that it really was. What came out as hatred was really a way of reacting to the extreme kind of rejection and hatred that blacks suffered as a people in America. For the most part, the rhetoric and everything else was a response to the way we were treated—and that's all it was, rhetoric. Calling the White man, "the devil" and a "grafted snake" was a kind of reverse racism for psychological effect. There was no practice or activity against the Whiteman.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was devoted to reforming those members of his race who had given up hope. Most of his followers were Christians who were not grounded in Christianity. And not all of them were former prisoners or dope addicts and prostitutes as reported by much of the media. In fact, the great majority of those he attracted were decent, poor, uneducated black people. Certainly he was very influential in the prison system because he offered something different They could say, "Well I don't have to accept this world. I can follow the Honorable Elijah Muhammad." But for the most part, his followers were from a decent life.
When I was a teenager, there were very few people with a college degree in the whole movement or organization. We had Dr. Lonnie Cross who came in when I was about 21 years of age or older. The principal of the high school I attended hadn't finished high school, but he was a studious self taught person, and very brilliant. The membership was made up mostly of deprived African-Americans or black people.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was more concerned about making decent people of those who were culturally deprived in this country. He was trying to reform those who didn't get a chance (o be in a healthy and progressive learning environment. He wanted to give them a new sense of dignity and pride in themselves, getting them to discipline their life morally, to be honorable law abiding citizens, and to understand, in spite of his rhetoric about race, that humanity is one on this earth. In his second to his last public address, he pointed to a man sitting on the podium with him and told his followers that he was a White-man, a good Muslim, and considered a scientist in the religion of AI-Islam. He also invited his followers to change. He said, "If the American Whiteman can change toward us, we have to change ourselves." So in the last years of his life, he was telling his followers to look for a new day.
Followers Not Taught Al-lslam
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was doing two things: one, he was dealing with the problem of loneliness and rejection in this country for poor, uneducated blacks. He was also trying to introduce a religion that would be acceptable. What he did was offer his people the same Holy book that is read all over the world, but he had his own version of the religion. Instead of Prophet Muhammad, known by Muslims throughout the world as being the prophet and messenger of God, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad made himself the prophet Furthermore, the god of whom he preached was similar to the Christian idea of God. He taught that god had manifested in the flesh of a man by the name of W. D, Fard, and that man (Fard) had missioned him (Honorable Elijah Muhammad) to preach separation to (he black man, and that salvation for him was in Islam. If anybody from the Islamic world heard his religion, they would not recognize it as Islam except for the terminology, Muslim and Islam.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was wise enough to know that as things changed toward giving the black man a place in America, his teachings would not be of anymore use. He said, "I'm simply pulling you out of the fire and cleaning you up." He also said, "Sometime after me, someone will come and teach you your religion." He would often say, "I'm not so much as teaching you about the religion right now. I'm just cleaning you up." But, cleaning up is really half of the religion. I think he was doing much more than just telling us that he was preparing us for the religion. He was not introducing the religion, but rather dealing with the bad circumstances for black people in this country, and as those circumstances gradually vanished or were done away with by good Americans, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad recognized the change.
My father was not an educated man. He didn't even receive an elementary school education. When he met the mystic (Fard Muhammad or W. D. Fard), who taught him in Detroit, he knew nothing about the international world. He knew very little about America, except for what the average uneducated blacks who suffered a lot of abuses would know and understand. He was nationally unaware and also internationally naive because of his background. Therefore, what this mystic told him, he accepted. Through the years, he gained a lot from self study.
In the '30's, he was one type of man. In the '50's he became a different man. In the '60's, he was still a different man, and in the 70's, he was a very moderate man. In fact, he didn't care in keep saying "Allah" to his followers. He would say "God" a lot more in the last years of his life. He outgrew the narrow confines that his mystic teacher had put him in. He was still loyal to his teacher because he gave him a life and made it possible for him to be popular; but, he broke his commitments to his teacher because of the knowledge he learned through self study. At his passing, he gave support to me.
Honorable Elijah Muhammad Supported Imam W. Dean Muhammad
I could not have become leader of the community on my own. The organization had people who would throw you out on your head if you differed with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I couldn't have become the leader if (he people close around him didn't know that he approved of me and my thinking.
L. COLFIELD: I'm trying to recall the things I've read and heard about the movement. I didn't see it in the same terms as f would see Islam from listening to you talk, f recall the name of the individual you mentioned your father having seen. As I recall the story, it happened in Detroit and the man was a merchant who spoke to your father. This was not the usual thing that I had in mind before you talked about Islam and the religion.
B. FARBER: / remember bringing up to Malcolm the fact that there were white Muslims in Albania, which is in Central Europe. Although Albania is in Europe, it is a predominately Muslim state.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: That's true. And the Turkish people, though they are not in Europe, are Muslims, and are also white.
B. FARBER: Whenever Malcolm X used to come in to be interviewed, he would be surrounded by guards which I later learned from William Worthy's article were the F.O.I. or the Fruit Of Islam. These were Malcolm's personal bodyguards. They appeared to be the most educated, sensitive and polite black body guards you could meet. They snapped to attention when the "hated" white man came into view. Every time I asked Malcolm anything, he began his answer with "Sir", and those who accompanied him did likewise when addressed. I see that you are accompanied by about six gentlemen. Are they still called the F.O.I.? Does that tradition still remain?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: No. The people with me are not F.O.I. With the passing of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and under my leadership, an entirely different idea was brought in. I introduced the religion as it is practiced by Muslims throughout the world. All of the structure for separatism and black nationalism has been done away with. The militant organizational unit called the F.O.I. is no longer necessary in our lives. The F.O.I, also had a counterpart called the M.G.T., which was the militant unit of the women who followed the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. That has also been done away with.
The Assassination of Malcolm X
B. FARBER: / was playing musical jobs with Miami talk show host Bill Smith, and it was during the last months of 1969 that I asked my deep south Miami audience what assassinated leader of the sixties will history wind up missing the most: John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin L. King or Malcolm X? Malcolm won by a landslide.
There is another question hanging over the broadcast table that nobody likes to ask, but in journalism it must be asked. What does the official Black Muslim doctrine hold on the assassination of Malcolm X? It is widely supposed that your late father ordered his assassination.
L. COLFIELD: Only recently I remember reading somewhere about the accusations surrounding Malcolm X's death. It is now alleged that the two people who are now in jail did not commit the murder, and two or three who are on the outside should be inside. I think it is a very significant cloud because of the very thing you said of the identification of Malcolm X as a leader who was missed.
B. FARBER: How does it stand that the world believes—in fact more than believes; the world assumes that Malcolm's assassination was a result of rivalry or dissension in the ranks or either a parting of the ways between him and your father, thus, vengeance done.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I'm among a few, maybe many who feel that the extremist organization had reached the point in its popularity that it was beginning to be a very serious problem for the security of our nation, the United States. In the last years of his life, Malcolm had started addressing the need to carry the African-American people's problem to the United Nations. He was doing something that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had not done, and I don't think the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was supporting him in going outside of the United States with the problem. It is my belief, and the belief of some others, that the Intelligence Department of the United States had something to do with Malcolm's assassination.
1 don't believe that my father ordered Malcolm's assassination. He would never do that It's true that he was very much dissatisfied with the turn in Malcolm's life—his going outside the disciplines of the Nation of Islam to try and get support from other nations to help us with our problem here in America. That was not the policy of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. His policy was to work out our problem's right here in America, and to depend on God whom he said came in the flesh to save and protect us.
B. FARBER: Did your father and Malcolm have eye to eye discussions about their differences?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: No. Something developed that brought about a separation between them. They were separated after Malcolm made a statement that my father later condemned publicly. Malcolm referred to the assassination of President John P. Kennedy as, "The chickens coming home to roost," and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad publicly condemned him for that statement. After Malcolm made the statement, my father put him on a ninety day suspension, and it was during that ninety day suspension that members in the National Leadership who were envious and jealous of Malcolm's popularity quickly began to undermine and discredit him in the eyes of the membership.
I recall reading our paper, at that time called "Muhammad Speaks," and looking at cartoons depicting Malcolm as a preacher with horns, as a Satan or as a devil, and he was also called Judas. Therefore, Malcolm came to believe that there was no chance for him lo ever be accepted again, and that his suspension was really a way of getting rid of him. Without talking to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the breach between them began to widen until it lead to what you are aware of.
B. FARBER: How about the acquiring of Muhammad Ali as a living symbol of your father's power?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Again, a lot of that credit has to go to Malcolm, who was a very persuasive person. Whatever he believed in, he could convince you of the same. He met the young Cassius Clay and excited him into becoming a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
B. FARBER: When the break between your father and Malcolm came, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) went with your father and not with Malcolm.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: That's true. Malcolm converted many people to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and most of them stayed with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad when the break came. They refused to go with Malcolm because they were attracted to what my father taught. Malcolm was very successful in converting them to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but not to himself.
B. FARBER: In other religions there are disagreements among clergymen. This however was not necessarily a disagreement between two clergymen. It was a disagreement between two very important people in a movement. For instance, if a Catholic Bishop argues with another Catholic Bishop, and they have a falling out, it doesn't cause the kind of disruption and the ultimate violence that came out in Malcolm's case.
Security Threat To America
IMAM MUHAMMAD: The nature of Catholicism and the nature of what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught was quite different. The order of American society is not threatened by Catholicism as it was threatened by what my father preached. If that powerful disciplined organization had fallen into more radical and irresponsible hands than that of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, American society would have become threatened.
Territorial Claims on America
B. FARBER: Your father made a claim on territory of the United States as a separate black nation. We haven't heard of that in years. Did you directly repudiate it, or did you just drop the matter?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I questioned the justification for it and its feasibility. In light of the political circumstances for black people today in America, I had no problem convincing the great majority of our members that it was something needed for a lime and for a situation that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad saw in America for black people. Now that we have equal opportunity, and the law and courts to defend our rights just as they defend the rights of all other citizens, we have to lake the initiative and go forward. We must improve and advance our life and get our good share of America like all other citizens.
Imam Khomeni and Iran
L. COLFIELD: Concerning the Kennedy slaying and your father's reaction—that's one of the things that troubles me about your movement and the Black Muslims. Do you take positions? For example, you did mention the Shah and the support of the Shah from our Government. Do you take positions with reference to actions taken in other countries by Muslims? There may have been a lot of things the Shah did to displease individuals, but I had women friends who held positions as teachers, doctors and lawyers and were living very decent lives, and since Khomeni, they are no longer in the class rooms. They are no longer in the courts. They are no longer in the hospitals. They have gone back to the veils.
Though I do not approve of prostitution and other things, to me there is something very wrong in this day and age to have the persons stoned to death or to have homosexuals stoned to death. Obviously you have deep religious feelings. Do you take positions on some of these things that are happening or do you just restrict all of your activities and evaluations to what is taking place within this country?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I'm a Muslim, therefore 1 am affected by what goes on in the Islamic international world. I am aware that many people who supported (he Shah are perhaps very decent people and very good Muslims. I am not aware that Muslim women cannot be teachers or cannot be in the professions. Perhaps you are aware that Iranian women fight in the army. You have seen Iranian women fighting with the men soldiers in the news. I believe that if women are accepted in the army, they will be accepted in teaching positions.
I don't have any facts regarding stoning of homosexuals, but I know there has been stoning of adulterers, and not only in Iran, but in several other Muslim countries. And, I think I have enough knowledge to support that statement Recently, I was appointed by an international world body of Muslims to a position on an international world council: the International Council of Heads of Mosque (Supreme Council of Masajid). My term starts in 1987. This international body is supported by the Saudi Government, and is based in Saudi Arabia. My position is that there is nothing in the Qur'an or in the practices (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad to support the stoning of homosexuals.
A. SPINELLI: / think many listeners already know this, but the Muslim culture is where medicine was really founded and carried through to the middle ages and preserved. While Europe went through the dark ages, the Muslim world carried the culture of the time. As an American studying history, I wonder about a regime such as the Khomeni regime which is a Shi'ite Muslim regime. It's distinct from the Sunni Muslim, and these are esoteric terms to the average American that reads them in the newspaper. I have a bad taste in my mouth for what Mr. Khomeni did to the hostages some years ago, and I still have a bad feeling. I think it will be interesting to know your reaction or relationship or observation about the Khomeni regime. Unfortunately, Americans are aware of him in a very unfavorable light. Is Mr. Khomeni practicing the purest form of Islam, or is he a sect you wouldn't agree with?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I would have to say that I am not an authority on the Shi'ites or Sect, if we can call it a sect. Most Shi'ites don't refer to themselves as a sect of the religion. They think of themselves as a School of Thought in the religion, and as followers of Ali (may God be pleased with him), the fourth Caliph or Ruler after Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I cannot tell you very much more about the Shi'ites than you perhaps already know from your own reading, but, I will say that in meeting with them, I find that most are people strongly committed to faith in God. 1 also find that the spiritual life is very strong in them. Most of them are kind-hearted, peaceful people.
What we sec in the revolution that Imam Khomeni headed has to be understood in the light of the difficulties that the Shi'iies had with the Shah of Iran, and in the support he received from our Government. The support for the Shah that came from our Government created a lot of bitterness. The vast majority of Muslims are called Sunni Muslims. and the majority of Muslims see the Shi'ites as Muslims. We don't distinguish between ourselves and the Shi'ites. We don't reject them simply because they are Shi'ites, but there are some difficulties. However, I don't care to go into them because I don't think that I am an authority on them.
A. SPINELLI: The Shah did get along with the Sunni Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In other words, weren't the Shah's problems with the Shi'ite School of Thought?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: The Shah was a Shi'ite Muslim, but the problem was with his people who felt that he was unfaithful to the religion. He was more anxious to win support from the American Government than to take care of the religious needs of his people.
Muslims in America
B. FARBER: / would like to get a broader view on freedom of religion as an American looks at freedom of religion. In America, one has a right to be religious or not to be religious. Is it possible to be a good practicing Muslim and be a good civil citizen? In other words, does the religion permeate ones complete life, or can one be a Muslim in good conscience and be a good American citizen without practicing all of the public things that the Muslim religion seems to require? In other words, would one have to surrender some American practices?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I have not found it necessary to surrender any of my religion to be a good American.
B. FARBER: I don't know if any journalist has ever recited a Yiddish proverb to Wallace Muhammad, but if not. I'll be the first. An old Yiddish (Jewish) proverb says, (recites in Yiddish). Now what that means is that a wise man hears one word and understands two. I'm understanding volumes, not just in what you have said, but also in what you haven't said. Apparently, there's no longer any emphasis on hating the white man. Apparently, there's no longer any emphasis on a separate black nation, I just wish your father were here on this microphone right now. I would love to hear what he would have to say.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Yes, we would be shocked.
L. COLFIELD: / want to develop the question I asked a little earlier. In recent political races here in New York, Governor Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro came under a lot of criticism from Cardinal Connor and the Catholic community because they didn't take a firm stand against abortion, which practicing Catholics oppose, and which I think the Muslims oppose as well. Now here was an instance where Catholics were in a very tough position. They wish to run for civil office and some of the most important precepts of their religion are in question.
Governor Mario Cuomo signed off on checks saying the Government pays for abortions, and many Catholics find that offensive. I just want to use that as a parallel to a Muslim seeking public office. Let's say that a military exercise is conducted against Libya, Could a Muslim do as a Catholic-leave off their religion to say. "There is an American responsibility separate from my religious responsibility, and 1 will go fight against my brothers in Libya"?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I would like to point to a similar situation for Christians. What about England and Ireland? How would an Irish soldier feel if he was told to go and fight. When you have two nations such as England and Ireland, and you have to choose between one or the other and fight Irish soldiers, you will have some difficulty. What I'm pointing to is a real sensitivity. The sensitivity for England and Ireland is similar to the sensitivity that we now have for Iran and Iraq, and our position here in America is similar, if not the same as that of Irish Catholic Americans with regard to Ireland and England.
B, FARBER: Do you choose sides between Iraq and lran?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: No, because I don't know enough about their problem to choose sides. There are Shi'ites in Iraq also.
Education: A Family Concern
B. FARBER: Some people have said that the only way to clean up the public school problem is by allowing parents to select the kind of education their children should have. Is there a Muslim position on that?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Yes. In our religion the family is very important; it is almost a sacred matter. The family's right to supervise the life of their children—especially in the early ages is very, very important. As an American, I feel that the role of the family has been destroyed by the way of life we are now living. I think that some of our leaders in government are greatly responsible for that destruction of family life.
A. SPINELLI: The Aid to Dependent Children program is an example. Sixty-one percent of black families are one parent families that receive aid. When President Johnson started the war on poverty, it was only thirty percent. It has been the biggest failure in American history over the last twenty years.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I agree, and it is really alarming,
A. SPINELLI: We have a lot in common. I mean, there is a lot of common ground here that is very interesting to us. I'm a traditional Catholic, and what we both see going on here in New York City is abominable.
L. COLFIELD: Living within our own country, I can appreciate that position. For example, where do you stand with reference to some of the leaders we have in the Civil rights movement? Also, where do you or the Black Muslims stand with reference to Farrakhan and what he espouses. Obviously what you have said fascinates and pleases me. It seems that a change from some of the things your late father advocated or did has come about. But, where do you stand particularly in reference to Farrakhan?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: First of all, let me say something that I'm sure will surprise you even though you may not accept it, I consider myself a legitimate Muslim and also a credit lo the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and what he stood for. When I said that if he could be here, we would be shocked, I meant that if he were here, he would be on my side even if he had to be a silent partner with me. I don't consider Minister Farrakhan to be a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, even though in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of his people, he appears to be his follower.
As an outsider looking in, you would think Farrakhan is closer to what (he Honorable Elijah Muhammad is all about than I am. That is because I have separated the old ideas about the concept of a black god from the Muslim concept of God and the humanity of all the races of people on this planet.
B. FARBER: / didn't know there was a rift between you and Louis Farrakhan.
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Minister Louis Farrakhan broke with us to form his own organization. He went back to the old language and old terminology of the Nation of Islam. When you address me as a Black Muslim, I really feel uncomfortable because I don't have that kind of thinking anymore. If anybody belongs to that kind of thinking, it is Minister Farrakhan.
B. FARBER: Wallace Muhammad has said many remarkable things here, but none more remarkable than the fact that he thinks his late father would have been on his side. In other words, he says that his father's true feelings have been twisted or misrepresented by Louis Farrakhan.
L. COLFIELD: What you have just given us; that those who are advocating to this day hatred for whites or calling white people devils and referring back to the mystic teacher, and stilt call themselves Muslims or black Muslims, you are saying that they are not really espousing what the Muslim is all about? Are you saying that Farrakhan is not representative of what a Muslim is about?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: That's right. Farrakhan's situation is quite different from that of my father. He is an educated man, a college man. He is not naive. He knows what he is doing. If he is not leaching the religion properly, he is aware of that. The real problem 1 have with Minister Farrakhan is not so much what he has said in the news, but what he has not said. The things he says privately to his congregation that really make him a supporter of the old teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad regarding the religion and the concept of God, man, etcetera. When I read what he says in his publication, "Final Call," I feel good about it In it he says, "We should practice (his religion now as it is practiced by Muslims all over the world." But he is saying one thing to the public, and another thing to his congregation. From what I am hearing, it seems as though he is playing games. If he is playing this kind of game, that represents real trouble, a real problem.
American Muslims and Politics
B.FARBER: Are you a Muslim?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Yes I am.
B. FARBER: Well what designation would make you comfortable if you are uncomfortable with being called a Black Muslim?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Simply call me a Muslim or Moslem.
L. COLFIELD: That's a question I wanted to ask. We kept saying Black. Muslims. Is there a difference between the Black Muslims and a Muslim?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: II shouldn't be. Is there a difference between a black Christian and a Christian?
A, SPINELLI: / have a question. Is calling you Mr. Muhammad proper? I didn't want to use your first name which is an impoliteness. In calling you Mr. Muhammad, is that the correct terminology?
IMAM MUHAMMAD; Yes, that is correct. Now we have some followers who are pretty strict in pronouncing names. They would make you say Muhammad if you said, "Mohammed." But either way is okay.
B.FARBER: Concerning political power. Many groups in America, whether they were Christians or Jews historically, have written their own story. Let's say there is an educated young Muslim male attorney in your congregation who wants to become a congressman and go into the political world in order to have someone represent the Muslim point of view alongside the other points of view. Would you encourage or discourage him from going into the political arena?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: Since I became leader, I would say there have been a considerable number of our members, men and women, who aspired for political positions, and some have been successful. We have a Circuit Court Judge in Detroit. There are many members of our community working at different levels of government—federal, state and local. They work in many different positions, such as in the Human Relations Department, as policemen, firemen, etcetera.
A. SPINELLI: / would assume that would be true, but let's say this gentleman is elected to Congress and faces a lot of the issues such as those raised by the Women's Rights or the ERA movement in America, f probably happen to be an adversary of that movement. I think that some of it is right and some of it is wrong. My question is, would this person (a Muslim politician) be able to shed the religious feelings towards women and deal in the civil world? Suppose this person is a congressman or a senator who might sit on a committee with women who are equals on the committee. Would this cause a problem?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I don't think so because women are equal in our religion. I don't think we should have any more of a problem than the Catholic would be faced with. Just as there are no women priest in Catholicism to my knowledge, there are no women imams in Al-Islam. Sometimes followers in religion get off the track.
A. SPINELLI: Recently in New York, gay rights legislation was passed which I opposed as many conservatives do. / believe there is now in Chicago a movement to set up a similar bill. Would you urge your followers to oppose legislation like this in the public arena that steps on the values of a Muslim?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: What problem do you see for Muslims in such legislation?
A. SPINELLI: As a religious leader, would you actively encourage people to oppose a gay rights bill?
IMAM MUHAMMAD: I don't think I would carry it that far. I would work with the people in my community, but I wouldn't try to make a public thing of it. (TO BE CONTINUED)