Author Topic: W.D. Mohammed Calls for a New Islamic Identity  (Read 48 times)


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W.D. Mohammed Calls for a New Islamic Identity
« on: February 25, 2004, 09:03:49 PM »
Speaker addresses issues of black religious identity

By Michael Kan, Daily Staff Reporter
February 20, 2004

Blacks across America face a burden on their soul, said Muslim leader Warith Deen Mohammed. They deal with the consequences of being taken away from their homeland of Africa several centuries ago and while living in a place where people are often identified by their skin color, he added.

Speaking last night at the Michigan Union to more than 100 Ann Arbor residents and students, Mohammed said this identity of skin color has to end. He called on members of the Muslim community to reclaim their identity, not only as Muslims or as blacks, but also to think themselves as human beings above all else. Only through this identity can people work together, he added.

The lecture, titled “Correcting Islam’s Image: Where is the balance Between the life of Faith and addressing material needs,” featured keynote speaker Mohammed, who is the son of Elijah Muhammed, leader of the Nation of Islam from the 1950s to 1975, and formerly led the American Muslim Mission. At the event, Mohammed attempted to clarify the message of Islam by explaining the Muslim community should not only identify themselves by their faith or by their race, but more importantly recognize that all people regardless of ethnicity or creed are equal to one another.

Mohammed began his speech by citing the struggles of blacks in the United States and how they had to endure the cultural changes of being separated from Africa. He added that once blacks arrived in America, they had to live under a new identity that was detrimental to their spirit.

“Would you like someone to take you from your past homeland and bring you to a new region, where they give you a name like Negro?” Mohammed asked audience members.

Mohammed said the separation of blacks from Africa only created a longing for them to find their own origins.

Yet when blacks looked at their homeland, they were only given images of an Africa that was uncivilized. He cited the fictional character of Tarzan as a negative image that promoted that thought.

“Tarzan was a stupid white person because he had grown up in Africa. … And he was leading crowds of animals and blacks.”

But once this negative image of Africa was overcome, Mohammed said when blacks looked at Africa to find their origins they still could not identify themselves with their homeland.

“I had an idea back then to go back to Africa and celebrate. But now that frightens me. The conditions are terrible (in Africa). There is no way to go back there and to celebrate,” he said.

To Mohammed, the only way to create a strong identity for blacks is to look back not at the racial origins or the religious origins of blacks, but to the beginnings of man. “We hope that all of us identify with a spiritual makeup which is the human reality,” he said.

LSA senior Wasseem Abaza agreed with Mohammed’s vision and said he only wished more students could have attended. “He discussed unity amongst all people, how we are all children of the (Earth). All the differences of race and nationality, they all came after that. We all came from the same source so we should be treated equally,” Abaza said.

The reality is that all people are born from the earth and not from another person, and so all people are connected, Mohammed said.

“If we return to that, we can share with each other and work to remove misery,” he added.

For blacks that are Muslim, observing the religion is only a part of the tasks they must fulfill Mohammed said. They still have to follow the path the religion provided — a path to achieving a vision of human equality.

Working to realize this identity, not just for blacks or Muslims, but also for all people, is the most significant of all identities because it is the truest, he added.

“Whether you’re Christian or Muslim you need to go back to your human reality. Not on a plane back to Africa.”

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