Al Qalam Magazine Interview with Imam Warith Deen Mohammed
AL QALAM - VOLUME 2, NO. 4
Interview with Imam Warith Deen Mohammed
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Opening statement by Shahid M. Faris, publisher and editor of AL-QALAM Publishing Co., Inc.; First of all, Brother Imam, I would like to say that we want to thank you for this opportunity and we are honored to have this privilege.
IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, you are welcome, and I was impressed with the last issue of the magazine. I thought it did a very good job of presenting Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini to your readers.
AL-QALAM: The first question that I have is: As you know, there remains a great deal of concern, I would even say apathy in the African-American community over the election of President Ronald Reagan and the ultra-conservatives in the Senate who are now in charge of certain key chairmanships. Could you give us your analysis of such an election; what happened? Why did it happen? Where do you see it leading us to?
IMAM MOHAMMED: First, let me say that I don't share the nervous concern of some of the people on the left hand side, if I can use that expression. I feel that the President is a man of principle, a conservative, a Republican conservative who wants to see the country, the image of the country of America, strong in the eyes of the international world, as well as for the good of the American people in terms of jobs and business growth, and that's what I'm reading more than anything else right now in the newly elected administration. Some of the persons that President Reagan has chosen, however, do give us cause to wonder about the future of the country, whether the country would be going to a too far extreme in serving a moral majority that many of us think is a moral minority. But I believe so strongly in the intelligence of the American people, and especially the leaders that are elected to government responsibility that I feel very safe with the leaders because I think that the demand for intelligence in the American people and the American government is going to force a more liberal attitude on the part of these conservative people.
AL-QALAM: There is talk about a third party, or the possibility of a third party, actually an African-American third party. I am wondering whether or not you would support such a party?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, if they would nominate me. (Laughter)
AL-QALAM: Well, that is very possible.
IMAM MOHAMMED: No, I think it is a good thing. If I was a part of that effort, I would encourage the other members in an effort to create a third party, a black party, to not take it so serious and to use it more as a strategy than as a real objective. I think it's good as a strategy, and who knows, in the long run it could be an objective.
AL-QALAM: As Muslims in America, what do you envision our political destiny to be, or our role in the political arena in five or ten years from now?
IMAM MOHAMMED: I would hope that out of our interest or concern to be involved in American politics for the interest of what I call true-blood of American democracy, that this involvement would develop a kind of an association of interested persons in politics from our community with others, with outsiders, and I would hope that that association will represent our role in American polities instead of us coming together with outside interests, it would be us attracting outside interests to our interests. And I would hope that an association like that may even develop into a kind of institution for apolitical analysis in the United States. I don't think enough analysis of the nature of the mood and the nature of American politics is done independently. I think we leave it to others to examine the political atmosphere and the political movement of political logic within the American democracy, and I think we should accept that responsibility too with other people.
AL-QALAM: That's a very good point because others are defining where we are going politically as opposed to us defining where we are going ourselves.
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, and we should also try to calculate where they are going too.
AL-QALAM: In our community, how would you suggest that the structure begin to formulate so this analysis, this political analysis, can really develop so that we can clock what would develop tomorrow? Where should we start initially?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Truthfully, there is a strong urge in me to initiate a movement myself, but my philosophy, my personal philosophy won't allow me to initiate a movement, or what I would call a political strategy movement within the community to interpret the philosophy and analyze the situation. I believe that efforts like that should come about naturally, I think leadership should just put feelers out and should express concern and don't create forms for delivering programs or delivering worth of some type before the people themselves show a willingness and an initiative behind such a concern themselves. So I am not really advocating the creation of something, as much as I have tried to stimulate an interest in this. On the basis of the growing political consciousness in our membership, I would say that this is going to happen naturally. This is a prediction. And it's going to happen soon, within the next year or two. Yes.
AL-QALAM: Do you think that we need a political lobby, and if so, how do you envision the development of this lobby economically and politically relative to the African-American leadership? Do you envision this lobby having any international concerns and connections?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, we do need a lobby, and I think the interest in the equal share of America's politics would eventually force us to get involved in the lobby because others are, and they are promoting their interest and serving their constituents, so how can we have the dignity of sharing equally in the political life of America if we are not present there too, if we are not lobbying? Our lives are being affected by those lobbies. So I think again that this in something that would happen of natural consequences. So far, the Bilalian people have been involved in the lobbies in the interest of civil rights. But there are people lobbying for business, for ethnic interests, religious interests, and all of these are legitimate concerns of American people. So I think that we should now go back and really weigh the talk that I have given, generally, on the need for global consciousness, and find a role for ourselves, a meaningful role for ourselves in the context of global consciousness. We should find a way to influence the shaping of this country and its future through the most effective avenues, and lobbying is one of the most effective avenues now.
AL-QALAM: What about the African-American leadership?
IMAM MOHAMMED: I think we need to be in more contact with leadership of substance in the Bilalian community. Educators. Educators with a philosophy for their people. Not just educators but educators with a specially designed philosophy for their people, that is in accord with the philosophy of government. To be in touch with political leaders, who are not just in politics for jobs, or in politics to serve their ward, but in politics to improve the politics of America, as well as to serve their local interests, their small interests. To be in touch with business, business leaders, prominent businessmen, men who have proven their abilities, their expertise in business, to be in touch with, especially with those who have a community-base concern, as well as a profit motive or the concern for profit, for income. To be in touch with those persons, and those persons will best reflect what should be the message to the Congress and to the Senate and the people who are running the government. I don't think we could lobby from any reference except our own, otherwise lobbying wouldn't be any good. So we would have to get more involved in the outer community in order to lobby effectively.
AL-QALAM: When you say outer community, you are speaking nationally or
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, I am speaking mainly of the, what we call center city, or center city activities. Where problems are.
AL-QALAM: How would you deal with international involvement and international issues? For example, South Africa, and the Palestinian Problem?
IMAM MOHAMMED: There are many ways that I can see that would be very helpful to us, and the best one would be to have some direct contact with those people, and being an Islamic organization we should at least be in touch with the Islamic community who are suffering oppression in the world; and there are Muslims in South Africa. But also, we have to see ourselves now, not only in the light of what would be required of us as a Muslim community, but what would be required of us as a human community, because we have translated our religion now into common human terms. So our aspirations now are not Islamic in a narrow sense, they 're Islamic in terms of what is best for humanity at large, and that is the true concept of this religion. We have to show more involvement in the global picture and we have to show that by having some lines of communication with Muslims and with persons who are reliable in the media, to give us reliable reports, and with organizations who serve international human needs. I would think that we should have some communication with the Red Cross. We should have some communication with UNICEF. We should have some communication with the organization, World Conference on Religion and Peace. And we already have membership in that body. We have supporting membership in that body. We need more of that. Com-munities can't do very much unless they are part of a broad organization or community effort to achieve something. I don't think we could ever accomplish anything of real worth to us by ourselves, working by ourselves. We have to find people who share our concerns. And many of them are already established and they have accumulated just stores of valuable information and if we have some kind of association with those bodies who share our concerns, we can benefit from their research. We can benefit from their wisdom, and this can help us all achieve what we want.
AL-QALAM: You mentioned a natural process on a couple of occasions previously. Could you elaborate a little bit on that? Exactly what do you mean by a natural process, something natural?
IMAM MOHAMMED: When I'm talking about something happening naturally, I believe that the most powerful social idea is the concept of the dignity of the common man and all other interests being directed so that they respond to the dignity and concerns of the common man. That idea is so superior to any other social idea, or social philosophy, that all you have to do is impregnate a people with that idea and the rest is natural; because they have intelligence and they have their own separate concerns and interests. One would be talented more in one area than one in another area. So art, industry, religion, everything would be affected by that concept in a productive way.
AL-QALAM: Let me ask you about a group that has been around for at least a century now and appears to be on the rise again. I am wondering whether or not we should really take them seriously. I'm referring to the KKK.
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, we should take them seriously, but we shouldn't forget that they are a joke too. What I mean by their being a joke is, they play on the blind social passions of people, racist passions of people, and their leaders know that their idea is illogical. So that's why I say that we shouldn't take them too serious, we should know that they are really an act. But, we should take them serious because they are really serious about what they want. (Laughter) They are real serious about what that act is intended to bring to them. I think that our point should be to deny them too much attention, to fight their influence, and their influence is to excite the blind passions and blind rages in people. So we should fight their influence by exposing their non-scientific position. Their position is that races thrive best when they live totally separate and that the intermingling of blood curses the purity of races. They alarm people who see different races socializing; they assume they will be marrying and the blood will be contaminated. So the non-scientific attitude and position of these people should be exposed, and all of us should cooperate in that.
AL-QALAM: Do you have a message for the KKK leader?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, I would like to tell the grand wizard that the KKK, in my understanding, represents Ka, Ka, Ka, and that means nothing but soul and no vision. They are all soul. Ka, in ancient Egyptian religion, represents the soul that stays in the body; it is not liberated, it can't go out and see what's happening in other places. It just hangs right in the body. They represent three of those (Ka) mentally, morally and physically,
AL-QALAM: Do you think there is some linkage or relationship between the KKK and the killings of Black children in Atlanta, Georgia, and also the killings in Buffalo? In your estimation, are these killings just isolated occurrences or does there appear to be a trend to try and turn the clock back?
IMAM MOHAMMED: It appears that way but I can't conclude that this is actually what's happening. It appears that the Klan is trying to get control of the sentiments of the people, and to turn those sentiments into racist sentiments. It doesn't seem that it is just coincidental that 18 or more Bilalian children have been killed in Atlanta and brutal Klan-like murders are discovered in the Buffalo area. It doesn't seem accidental. It does seem like it is connected with this new fervor in the Klan to exert themselves and make their tactics effective in society. It is possible that the killings may not be racially motivated. The killer might be just some kook, somebody who read the Bible too much without understanding. You know, there are people who read the Bible and take it upon themselves to go out and execute judgment for God. They believe they are Angels of God.
AL-QALAM: Martin Luther King's mother was killed by a man that tried to rationalize his actions through his interpretation of the Bible.
IMAM MOHAMMED: That's right. He thought that he was doing the work of God.
AL-QALAM: Back in December you showed me a letter that Malcolm had written a sister-
IMAM MOHAMMED: He sent her a reply because she was a little bit disturbed with him for taking too much authority upon himself. He thanked her for pulling his coat. These are my words, but I think that is what he said. He thanked her for pulling his coat and told her that he did feel he had to be very careful not to interfere with the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed and to work in his shadow rather than to get deluded by our own shadow. That was typical of Malcolm. I recall him not being asked to, but volunteering that kind of information to persons in the community. Even to turn back their tendency to idolize him or to worship him. He was always telling the believers to be aware that we can go astray if we start giving too much credit to the person, as Elijah Mohammed is the leader. He always pointed to the Honorable Elijah Mohammed until he was forced to defend himself out of desperation.
AL-QALAM: I also recall your saying after we went over the letter that the split that came about between Malcolm and Master Elijah Mohammed wasn't really between them, but that internal forces really forced them to separate. Do you feel this internal rift was related to Malcolm's assassination?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, let me first say, Malcolm was a curious admirer of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. Malcolm never pretended to be an instant convert to the teachings of Elijah Mohammed. Malcolm always explained his own search for direction as a Bilalian in America. He admitted that he was studying the communist doctrine and that he was attracted to it. However, it was Elijah Mohammed and his teachings that broke the influence of communism on the shaping of Malcolm's mind. He was in prison at the time. Malcolm never presented himself as a typical convert to the Nation of Islam. The typical convert says, "I saw the Honorable Elijah Mohammed, I heard him the first time, and that was it." Malcolm said, "I heard him and I went back and I studied him, and I heard him again, and I studied him, and I was finally convinced that this man had the answer." When Malcolm was convinced, he devoted himself totally to the job of promoting the Honorable Elijah Mohammed as the leader whose teachings held the answers for our lives. Everybody who knew him, Christians, civil rights groups, socialists, the Students for a Democratic Society, anyone who heard .Malcolm address audiences knew that the Honorable Elijah Mohammed was his idol. He was Malcolm's idol and his philosophy was to Malcolm, the philosophy of salvation for the so-called American Negro. What I would like to emphasize is, Malcolm can't be called a hypocrite; and it was wrong for the Nation of Islam to ever call him a hypocrite. In calling him a hypocrite, it suggests that he was hypocritical. That made many members of the Nation of Islam suspect that Malcolm was never sincere from the start, which is so far from the truth. He was the most sincere. He was outstanding as a sincere follower of the honorable Elijah Mohammed and he was the one who brought sincere effort to the ministry of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. Sincere effort means acting on the advice of your leader. Stirring the souls of people is weaker effort, but acting on the advice of your leader is sincere effort. Malcolm X was one of the few ministers of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed and the most outstanding of them all, who didn't just hear the Honorable Elijah Mohammed and go back and excite the people or steer the souls of the people. He saw a need for them to come out of their old habits into new habits. Not just new moral habits a new way of dressing, a new way of grooming yourself physically but adapting a new way of thinking in America. So he made Muslims who were spiritually and morally awakened, politically awakened, too ready to carry out an economic program of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. So, really if we would give any one person credit for the stimulated, accelerated activity in the Nation of Islam behind programs, economic programs, and militancy, it would be Malcolm.
AL-QALAM: He was involved with "Mohammed Speaks," too.
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, certainly, oh yes, certainly he was.
AL-QALAM: He and Jabir (Herbert Mohammed).
IMAM MOHAMMED: Jabir had expressed a desire in seeing a paper created, but Malcolm acted upon it. He formed the paper in New York, you see, then efforts began to show in other places, mainly here in Chicago. Finally we produced a paper for the whole community out of Chicago. Malcolm should be called the truest follower of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed, because he had the courage to present to the world what we held privately. And the Honorable Elijah Mohammed appreciated that so much in him, he made him his spokesman for the Nation of Islam; I heard the Honorable Elijah Mohammed kind of reminiscing, and he said, ". . . look how long we just stayed in those little shabby places doing nothing. You all didn't want to do nothing but carry a Bible and preach. Now I got me a young minister who really knows how to help." We should view Malcolm as a turn for the Nation of Islam, from fear and isolation to openness, courage, and community involvement. We should overlook that small page in the history of the Nation of Islam that has him at odds' with the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. We should look upon it as something that was created to cause the effort behind Elijah Mohammed to self-destruct. You asked what I thought was involved in that. After reading FBI reports and Hoover's design on radicals Bilalian radicals I'm convinced that the number one suspect is the FBI.
AL-QALAM: Turning to the brothers that have been accused of assassinating Malcolm, you have stated on numerous occasions that it is your belief that they are innocent. They have been in prison for sixteen years. There appears to be little activity around their case collectively. What can we do, or what should we be doing, concerning this lack of activity?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, it's only so much we can do by ourselves. I don't think Muslims in our community can do very much to get those brothers released or to get them a new trial, or a fair trial without equal participation from the outside community. I think the key for really turning this thing in favor of a new trial or release for those brothers is the widow of Malcolm X, Sister Betty.
AL-QALAM: Now, she just doesn't want to have anything to do-
IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, naturally, I can understand that and I wouldn't be the one to press her because this is, perhaps, too ugly a page to bring back to her memory. So that's a problem that we have to accept that she is a key factor and non-accessible to us, or to persons who could aid in the release of the brothers. But, we shouldn't let the case die in the minds of the public, because this is how justice is shelved. The media is very important, the press is very important and right 'now it doesn't seem that the general press is interested. So the burden to keep this case in the air lies on us. I think in the long run justice will be done. But in the meantime, there are persons who know they are guilty and they are allowing the innocent to suffer. Who knows how far the involvement goes? Those persons who are in a position to abuse government authority could be involved. They could be hiding their puppets, their hit men, so to speak. This is all speculation, but I think facts pro-vided by the FBI confidential re-port make this realistic speculation; and, you know, dirt covering dirt is powerful when that dirt goes into powerful quarters. I think, however, and this is a very serious statement, Hoover's era in the FBI department is over. Although there is always the likelihood some clones of his are still in key places.
AL-QALAM: In the Middle East, we have two Muslim countries fighting, Iran-Iraq and Syria-Jordan were threatening to go to war. Libya and Saudi Arabia are having problems, and it's not all peaches and cream in the United States. What is your analysis of these conflicts? Could it be the beginning of unification throughout the Muslim world?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, I think it is. If we analyze what is happening in the Islamic world with a view on the accelerating movement for personal and national dignity in the global context, I think we will find the explanation for the revival of Al-Islam. For the most part, the revival of Al-Islam in the world is akin to the urge of the peoples in the nations that have been oppressed, and denied their dignity as a nation. Muslims are now looking at their ideology and relating to what's happening to other nations. So being able to relate, Muslims come out in their true colors and they view Islamic resurgence, Islamic ideology, for world reformation. We are seeing a common hope and common need in man and in man as individual and in man as a nation or society. And the urge to dignify, the urge to relieve, to free all from oppression, to be free of indignation Muslims respond to this urge because this ideology is the core of our religion, which is essentially a humanized religion. In light of what is happening, universally, with universal participation, crossing boundaries, lines of religious classification, political ideology, and understanding the nature of the new awakening in the world today, we should be slow to condemn religious leaders or national leaders. We should be slow in condemning them because while we may be responding to one aspect of this universal concern, those we condemn are responding to a very different aspect of this total concern. We might brand people as political fanatics because we are moral fanatics. We might not be fanatics at all. We might be morally irrational for condemning a person whom we think is politically irrational. I caution Muslims, all of us, to be very slow to condemn any great religious personality or Muslim personality in the world today, and that includes Qadhafi (President of Libya),
AL-QALAM: You have made a lot of changes in the community since the death of Master Elijah Mohammed. I think the most profound change you made was to turn the community to the Holy Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) away from the human flesh. While you put your father's image in its proper place, as a great social reformer, but not a prophet, you were very discreet in not taking anything away from him. I imagine this was a very delicate role. What do you consider to be your next challenge within the community?
IMAM MOHAMMED: The challenge that I see now is something that seems to just hang on the community. We have made progress but the progress does not speak to our capacity to bring needed attitudinal changes to the community. The challenge now is ... to remove the air of mysticism from Fard Mohammed and the Honorable Elijah Mohammed so we can see them as human beings like ourselves. In other words, not as people who were called by God, as Prophet Mohammed was, and Moses and Jesus, and the other prophets. I think even John Mohammed, Farrakhan, and Silas's followers know better. They are just caught up in something and they don't see a dignified way out yet. But as their morals get stronger they'll find a dignified way out, as we did. Leaders in this community are still in the habit of being overly concerned about their own image in the eyes of people. If you're too much concerned about your own image in the eyes of your immediate following, your growth is going to be restricted to that sphere. Too many of us are satisfying the mirror of our local Masjid membership: we look in the mirror, we see how we look in the eyes of the local membership and if the membership says your tie is crooked or something, we straighten it up, but what is the world saying? The world is saying that we have the wrong attitude, we are not broad in our minds and in our thinking and we are not conditioning our membership for meaningful, fulfilling lives in the outer community. By this I'm not saying that we ought to take off anything Islamic. I'm saying that we ought to finish taking off what isn't Islamic. We need to stop fearing association with other Muslim groups; we need to stop fearing challenge from other Islamic leaders, or students, outside of our community. The result will be that we will grow in areas where we are how stifled and held down. Many Imams are now studying the Quran to educate themselves in the knowledge of Quran. In the past, I believe most of us read it to hear music. (Laughter) We were looking for a musical note. We weren't looking for words of enlightment. But now I think most Imams are reading it for enlightment and for education and that's good, that's good. But still there's a need to challenge this Community, to provoke this community out of its narrow attitudes. And I have a plan; I can't tell you right now.
AL-QALAM: You can't tell us?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Not now. (Laughter)
AL-QALAM: What are some of your priorities?
IMAM MOHAMMED: My number one priority is human and global consciousness. We preach not just for Islamic propagation, we preach as our way of contributing to the strongest name in America's life. There should be people of intellectual appetite who will see that concept as the strongest, firmest social concept for the philosophy of Clara Mohammed Schools. Our community needs to be provoked to grow more academic. The Honorable Elijah Mohammed came with a challenge, he came from courage and he said we are building Islam Universities. Well, he challenged us to measure up to university standards. He didn't give us universities, but he gave us the elementary and secondary schools, and an appetite for university standards. Our community is now in a position to attract people from high school and college levels just as any other educational organization. Our membership can no longer be characterized as illiterate, under-educated, or culturally deprived. We have sufficient numbers of educated people in our community. So because of these people, this more educated membership, we should be attracting persons who have ideological thirsts and a new orientation towards common man's needs and the dignity of society. These educated persons can help us to shape the sentiments and aspirations of the students and general membership in conformity with our ideologies, helping to fight off what I call the hangover from yesterday's superstition, yesterday's superstitious tribalism, the tendency to trip off into vague or strange ideas of what reality is and leave our family and community concerns. This is a great problem for us still. It is a problem for us as a Bilalian people. It is a problem for the American people, too. But it is more a problem for Bilalians because we don't have as clear a view of the past as other peoples who are suffering have from the same problems. So what we have to do is establish for the first time a point, a beginning of our cultural life. I think that we are stupid to keep reaching back in the past for Africa, for something in Africa, or for some philosophy that some man dreamed up and dropped on us. I think that we are really wasting time and we just keep holding ourselves back to do that. I think that we should recognize the real need for us to create our cultural calendar, create our own cultural calendar. The invitation for us to call ourselves Bilalians was my way of bringing some kind of reality to that. To create our own cultural calendar. It won't begin with Bilal, but Bilal is a focus point. Bilal is a point of ethnic connection, and with religion, which is very, very important in the lives of people, as well as with the African ancestor; Everybody began their cultural life in an idea, and then the idea became reality for them. The idea began to influence their life, and their life began to manifest the idea. We have a history in America, a history of struggle for the full dignity of a human being in the life of America. We can take that history. We have personalities who have advanced that dignity Du Bois, Frederick Douglass we have many who advanced that dignity. We should begin to write our own history to show a development into cultural identity. Cultural identity for the people is greater than racial identity. We represent a people who were once rooted in our own culture. We represent a people who were isolated from the culture of a society, of which we were a part. It wouldn't serve our development in a healthy way to adopt the culture that rejected us. What I have been trying to do is make visible some start toward cultural identity. And I have been trying to do this without separating ourselves completely from the total culture of the American people. There's nothing wrong with that. I've gone back to identify the concept of the human being in the Constitution of the United States and the language of the Constitution of the United States or the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. And I have tried to show the connection between Christian ideas and what we, as Muslims, are all about. But really the answer for Bilalian people won't come until Bilalian people get the courage to do what the Bible says the Hebrews did. I don't know if they ever did it or not; maybe they just have it there as a blueprint for doing it (Laughter) exit from the cultural life that oppressed you, that rejected you. Exit from that and come into your own. Now if your own reflects the best of that that oppressed you, great. That's what we would like to see. But if your own condemns that which oppressed you, we have to accept that.
AL-QALAM: Do you think Marcus Garvey, for example, said anything about a cultural identity?
IMAM MOHAMMED: What I am pointing to is not just a movement but an institution a movement that also promises an institution or represents the growth of an institution. And I see Marcus Garvey as leading up to that. But not only Marcus Garvey, Du Bois, each was working his own way and from his own viewpoint. But they all made their contribution. Frederick Douglass, in my opinion, was speaking to the American conscience, but he was speaking from the concerns of an oppressed American. We have to find the common artery or the common accord in what all our leaders were doing, and establish a direction for us. That way we will have leadership, that way we will have cultural reference, a real cultural reference; we could have a calendar. These people existed in time. Their contributions are a calendar. We can have our calendar. Prophet Mohammed, when he separated from the world, what did he do? He formed a calendar, called Hijrah. O.K. now, we don't form an Islamic world, the Hijrah is our calendar for the Islamic world, but we need to form our Bilalian world and it should have its calendar, it should have its point of exit. We should find where did we begin to exit from the dominance of oppressive culture. And we should refer back to that for identity, for cultural growth and identity.
AL-QALAM: You mentioned in a Khutbah on Friday, October 17th, the fig, the olive and Mt. Sinai. You said the fig represented the people being scattered and the olive represented central leadership and Mt. Sinai represented, I think you said, the government. Do you see all of this being interrelated with what you have just stated?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Certainly, it seems to be a natural progression that people, when totally uprooted culturally, are left in the dark. They are like the seeds group in the area of the fig. Well, we, in my opinion, are still under the influence of fig mentality. We haven't structured our social mind and we haven't structured our cultural mind. Fig represents, also, emotions, and we are still emotional, because structured life comes when people begin to see scientifically what their life is all about. It comes with real academic development. However, the Quran speaks of the fig with the same respect that it gives the olive and Mt. Sinai and the City. The fig also applies to the form that we take on in the society, how we are orientated in our society. You see, people who haven't become culturally established, in the way of having an institution representing their cultural life, people that haven't developed that or have lost that, their social influences are governed by person-to-person interaction. So he may be one thing today and another thing tomorrow. He will change his life with the next marriage. (Laughter) We must first be drawn toward each other. As we are taught, "None of you can become a believer until he first loves for his brother what he loves for himself." So it begins with this interest in each other and this attraction for each other. We just group together like the seeds in the fig. Nevertheless, that kind of grouping is weak when you compare it to the high formation in scientific development. Man looks to different figures and creations and concepts or for terms that will carry his message and convey his ideas and his thoughts. So the olive is a richer concept in terms of conveying the higher development of man, his rational development. Once the mentality comes into the olive state, then it has firmness. The olive can dry up and not lose much of its volume; the olive still keeps its oil, whereas the liquid of the fig evaporates. We even use the term fig now in our language. For example, "that's a figment of your imagination." And when we speak of things that don't have definitions, we say, "I'm speaking figuratively." So, the old language is still with us but we don't apply it to its original context.
Now let's continue the progression from the fig to the olive to regulating society: The Holy Quran states, in this same chapter that we have been discussing, that, "The law" was "revealed on Mt. Sinai." That was the law given to Moses to regulate the whole life of our society. We have the emotional nature in the fig, which is very important to bring people together, to make people feel for each other and to empathize with each other. Then we have the rational nature in the olive. Now, we have the political nature. Man can't hold everybody with his hand, so he needs law. So we have the political nature in Mt. Sinai. But where does it end in this progression in the Quran? It ends by saying, "and this town made safe." So the greatest development and the object of man's intellectual growth is governmental order. It actually doesn't stop with law, but when there is trust in society.
AL-QALAM: What happened to American Pouch Food?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Well, you know, we could put our failure on the head of the army's head, the chief, and the food service department in the army, and could charge it to his not wanting to support the program from the very start. That will just show maybe some part of the problem. What we should do is look at ourselves to see what was the real problem. We again failed the trust that our community put in us. When our community invested in the Federal Street building, it was trusting us to protect that investment. I, in turn, trusted other members of this community with that investment and with the bigger interest of American Pouch Food. They failed that trust I don't think intentionally, but out of habit. Bilalian people are in the habit of involving experts, and experts are whites involving consultants and once they get enough experts involved they follow experts instead of leading the experts. It's your concern; you must stay ahead of your consultants. The man driving the mule on the farm, the mule is in front of him, but he drives the mule. Well, the experts can be in front of us but we should drive those experts to protect our concerns and that's what we fail to do. I trusted those who said they had knowledge in the business. I hate to say this, but most of our people proved to be unqualified under qualified and unqualified for that responsibility that was given them, and they were really depending on the other partners, our partner and his associates, for the success of that operation. And they were in the habit of gambling with investments. All good businessmen, business people, accept economic risks; I'm not talking about that. When I say gamble, I'm talking about the ghetto welfare mentality. Here you got people who have a tendency to hustle government funds like the welfare hustlers hustle welfare. And I think they were tricked into that weakness because they couldn't see their way through. We were depending too much on government supervision and guarantees. Once we established a business relationship with the government, then we were responsible for our contract. It was up to us to deliver. So we failed our contract and we have to accept it. We failed the contract. We didn't deliver as we should have, and we have to accept our failure in that.
AL-QALAM: How can we prevent history from repeating itself?
IMAM MOHAMMED: By engraving it deep, very deep in the most sensitive areas of our lives as to have it tattooed so you don't repeat it again. These experiences are losses but they are also influences and factors for improvement if we learn from them.
AL-QALAM: Have we lost anything personally, as a community?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Certainly, we have lost a lot. In terms of image, we have lost a lot. We are known on the outside, although we know reality on the inside, we are known on the outside as people who have been able to take small means and do economic wonders with them. So this is a big loss of dignity for this community. But not only that, we have lost many jobs, many people are out of jobs. If we had accepted a challenge like that and devoted ourselves to it wholeheartedly, and made it a success then we would have proven something to ourselves. We would have had a source of inspiration and dignity for us.
AL-QALAM: Have we lost the property or is that in jeopardy?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes, it is. The property is in jeopardy. Until the government contract is satisfied we are being charged with default. If we are guilty of defaulting, then the money that they have put into that operation, to fund that operation, has to be repaid.
AL-QALAM: In concluding, I wanted to express personally my deepest appreciation for the opportunity to interview you. I has been very rewarding and on behalf of the magazine itself, I want to express my appreciation. I would like to ask you at this particular time, is there a closing comment that you would like to make?
IMAM MOHAMMED: Yes. I was listening to the radio last night; normally I'm not listening to the car radio at this time of night. It was after 10:00, I think, and Wesley South has a new program. He had Irving France and Bob Wright as his guests, and I was happy to see that they were really both strong supporters of institutional development in the freedom of liberating process of the culturally uprooted African-American people. This is a direction that we have always been going toward and I think if any group realizes something of an institutional substance, soon, it will be us. I would further like to remind the readers of the tendency to become despondent when there are radical changes that upset the apple cart. In the words of one Caucasian philosopher, who in effect said, "We may be saddened, but not despondent": with the change of administration, we may not like the next man that comes in and this saddens us, disappoints us; we have regrets, but we should never be despondent. We should always keep ourselves together. We should be ready for their challenge; we should never be thrown off our feet because our hopes shouldn't all be in the White House or in a personality to start with.
AL-QALAM: Thank you very much.
IMAM MOHAMMED: Thank you.