IMAM WARITH DEEN MOHAMMED
“If we become independent thinkers, we can make a contribution”
In his last known interview, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed speaks about American Islam, Black American culture, and why Barack Obama should be the next US President.
As Imam Warith Deen Mohammed was laid to rest on September 11, 2008, many people are learning more about what he was able to achieve during his lifetime of leadership. Too many outside the Muslim community still conflate his leadership among mainstream African-American Muslims with the smaller (yet more visible) Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan. And many Muslims are still unaware of the efforts he made to bridge the gap between disparate Muslim communities, as well as between Muslims and those of other faiths. As Muslim American leaders who worked closely with Imam Mohammed flew to Villa Park, IL for the burial, and mourners reflected on his vision for a united and engaged Muslim community, many are also wondering what legacy “Brother Imam” will leave for Muslim Americans to follow. In this, his last known interview, he speaks to Islamica Magazine about Black American culture, his struggles with the Nation of Islam, and his vision for the future of Islam in America. Here is an abridged version of the interview conducted by Michael Vicente Perez and Fatima Bahloul.
ISLAMICA You’ve been teaching Islam in the United States for over 40 years. What challenges have you faced and what have you learned from these challenges?
W.D. MOHAMMAD The main challenge we faced was from ourselves. We are newly converted to Islam. And the way we came to Islam was different from other communities. It was intentionally an indirect movement. Teaching Islam at the time of my father, Elijah Muhammad, was a strategy of protest – to protest the condition of black people in America. And I was hoping that, in time, things would get better and that the conditions of black people would be better for blacks