I just wanted to say that I appreciate the language you are teaching from Imam W.D. Mohammed. I support you 100%. My question is, how do we bring our youth back to do the work and to learn the religion? Happy Blessed Ramadan!
Bro. Muhammad Ali
IMAM EARL ABDULMALIK MOHAMMED
Brother Muhammad, thank you for this question, and As-Salaam Alaikum and Blessed Ramadan to you and family. There is no concern for our community's life than what you have asked here that is of any higher importance. I have thought about this for many, many years. How will it be possible for us to survive as a community of faith with our public face looking elderly. We respect age and wisdom, but our public face should always be youthful. If it is not a youthful public face, that means that we are not properly addressing the need for our community and our people to endure. It means we do not have systems in place to support and encourage and educate our young people. This is the most glaring neglect, and the most damning of this current leadership. The inability to reach and inspire our young people.
If you study Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and his father, you will see that they had young men and women around them. I was 25 years old when I became Imam Mohammed's National Representative in 1990. He explained to me then that my presence next to him would be a strong message that we as a community had a viable and promising future. During that period the Imam invited many young men and women to work with him. He invited them to learn directly from him. He gave them the best of himself, his time, and his teaching. Among them are some that have sent me messages letting me know that they understand what I am doing and they strongly support it. I have a young man with me now who represents me in a most excellent way, and he comes from generations of Muslims who committed themselves over decades to the leadership of our community. That is Imam Ibrahim El-Amin of Southern California. It was bred in him to see the correct focus for the message of our community and give his best support to it. He is working very hard to get our message to more young people and he is having success. I met him when he was a teenager at a function where I spoke on behalf of Imam W. Deen Mohammed in his city. He was drawn to my message on that occasion. He sensed something in my message that was unique in its scope and language. He perceived it as inextricably and undeniably linked to Imam W. Deen Mohammed's message. Many young people sensed the same from me in those days. Bro. Muhammad, you are also one of these persons. And I believe what you experienced with me and what Imam Ibrahim and many others did as well, is part of the answer to your question. But, still this issue is not anywhere near being solved. And it will not be solved without much effort and dedication to get the job done correctly.
Our schools, that were once the beautiful example for all Muslims in America of our commitment to young people, are mostly non-existent in any notable way now in most cities where our people are in any numbers. Other than the Mohammed Schools in Atlanta, and perhaps one or two other cities, we do not have any credible schools. That is not to say that we don't have a strong will and tradition of education and that it is not still alive. It is alive, but in a sleep-state in most places because the local leadership in those places does not want to make the commitment that those who are responsible for establishing that tradition did. Nearly all of my children have attended Muslim schools and some of them are still involved in Islamic community schools and education. My son Adam attends W. Deen Mohammed High School In Atlanta as a 10th grader, and his sister, my daughter Emani, who was a high-achieving graduate of W. Deen Mohammed High School, after earning her college degree, is now a lead instructor at that school. Really, they should make her the principal. She has the pedigree, the ability, and the commitment to lead that institution. My daughter Halimah, she is also a graduate of a Muslim high school in Washington, DC and she is now taking her master's degree in early childhood education and psychology. Both of these daughters of mine have followed in each of their mothers' footsteps in devoting their entire lives and professional careers to young people, Muslim schools, and education.
We have had some truly outstanding educators that devoted themselves entirely to our community's young people and future. Among them, and perhaps the most outstanding example of this is Imam Yusef Saleem of Washington, DC. Other than Imam W. Deen Mohammed, I never saw a person better prepared and more excellent in a classroom teaching young students than Professor Saleem. He does not get the credit he deserves for shaping a generation of young Muslim minds. He will always have my love and strong support. There is Professor Wali Shabazz of Tampa, Florida who has given his entire career to the special needs and care of the psyche of young African-American males. There is Sister Basimah Abdullah-Shaheed of Milwaukee who with her husband Imam Ronald Shaheed made the Clara Mohammed school there a model institution. There is Sister Naima Saleem of North Carolina, who continues to make it her personal mission to acknowledge the Muslim young people graduating from high school and to give them every possible support and encouragement she can to continue their education and to serve our Muslim community. There is Sister Margaret Murray Muhammad who with her husband, the late Imam Kenneth Muhammad, literally built from the ground the notion of Muslim education in Durham and Raleigh, NC. There is Imam Muhammad Siddeeq, his wife Fareedah, and their children -an entire family of educators, one of whom Khadijah -the wife of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, is a gifted teacher in the school of understanding of her husband's language. There is Dr. Suweeyah Salih of Cleveland, brought up in the Nation of Islam schools, and who brings new vision, purpose, and methods to Muslim-American and African-American community needs in education. I have studied our people and given serious attention to how we can effectively address this issue.
What I have learned is that what we owe our young people is a sincere interest and preparation to address the issues of building Islamic community, and to convey a clear message they can believe in, support, and be excited about to invest their lives in, as these persons I have mentioned have done. Children know instinctively if their teachers are prepared, or if they are faking preparation. If the teacher is pretending preparation they will lose the child's attention and respect. This present order of leaders have failed this community. Our children know by nature that they are deserving of much more than flowery speech-making on an Islamic identity, or sermonizing on Islamic faith. We have to invite them to understand Muslim life as their property, their obligation, their responsibility, to build in America, and to therefore qualify themselves for that by being as prepared as possible. When they hear from me directly, I know they will be inspired to pick up that responsibility. Even the youngest ones, as young as 7 or 8 years old.
When I was a small child, not older than 5 years old, my grandfather read to me from the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper the weekly article "Mr. Muhammad Speaks." When I was 15 years old, I pledged my loyalty to Imam W. Deen Mohammed. It tickles me to hear and read what some of these leaders have said about me, and how they have made themselves responsible for introducing me to Imam Mohammed's knowledge. Once, one of them who is of the most arrogant in his stupidity and continues to be, said to Imam Mohammed "You know Brother Imam, Abdulmalik was with us in our city before he came to work for you." The Imam looked at him, and the pupils of his eyes became very small, and anyone who was close to him that experienced that look knew that they were in serious trouble. Imam Mohammed said to this brother "Oh, no indeed. He was with me long before he visited you in your city." He was letting that brother know and every other of the Imams sitting at the table that day that would never corrupt me or my relationship with him and his message. That the bond was firm, deep, and incorruptible. I intend to build the same kind of relationships with these young people now and with their parents.
I do not want to discuss the specific details of all of our plans in this public venue at this time because I know our enemies are studying everything I say so they can interfere with it. But, Bro. Muhammad, we have important plans to reach directly to our young people and their parents in all of these cities. I invite you to stay in touch with my office, and as I move about in this country to join me whenever you can, and we will work together to educate and inspire these young people to embrace the responsibility to build their Muslim life. We will be giving them the religion in its true report and at the same time we will be preparing them to accept leadership responsibility for Muslim life in community in America. And Allah will favor this because it is a sincere effort that does not cancel or cheat our dignity as an African-American Islamic community of faith.