QUESTION: Brother Imam, our tradition of leadership messaging can be characterized, in part, by a clear and straightforward expression of the truth, even when that truth may be uncomfortable for those who are receiving it. The climate in certain sectors of the public discourse has been impacted by “political correctness,” whereby even the mention of certain concepts vital to healthy community life is considered offensive to “minority groups.”
This thinking is especially pronounced among younger people who have been influenced by the intellectual class of this society to be hypersensitive. In turn, it further hampers the African-American community’s ability to properly identify and correct social problems that hinder our establishment as a people. How should we understand this social phenomena of “political correctness?” What is the best strategy to navigate these “safe spaces” where serious matters must be addressed in a way that emphasizes responsibilities rather than the modern notion of “rights?”
As a note, I see this language “safe spaces,” in its current expression and practice, to be a perversion of Imam W. Deen Mohammed’s explanation of Man’s Shared Freedom Space.
IMAM EARL ABDULMALIK MOHAMMED: I would like to answer your question as one continuing in our Muslim-American tradition of looking honestly and forthrightly at our condition as African-American people in this country. This tradition of devotion to serving the black people of America for us is well-established in American history. It begins with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Imam W. Deen Mohammed continued in the spirit of his father's devotion with an emphasis on the clarity of language, especially in the language that defines man's interests and aspirations in human society under G'd's Authority. How we understand and how we communicate our aspirations for ourselves in American and human society is how I am interpreting your question. We have to be clear about what we see as our responsibilities in society and what we perceive as good for society without hesitation or impediments or confusion in our speech. We are responsible for our speech. We are responsible for our discourse and we must be conscious of the influence we have with the language we use.
The straight-forward principle here is that there is no 'correctness' or 'safety' without the sincere and conscious attention to truth and justice. This is Islamic teaching, and it is also the foundation for the message to America of our best leaders and teachers in our history as a people in America. It is also the best tradition of the American people in general. Language must be truthful and transparent to qualify as a service to the life of striving people, people striving for their full life and respect and possibilities in society. The intellectual order speaking into the ears of the political, commercial, and religious establishment has been known as a body of hidden and scheming orchestrators contributing to the confusion and manipulation of the common people in society with language. They speak above the people's understanding, and they attempt to manipulate the people's behavior through language for purposes they have determined. This process is entertainment to them. They are amused at watching the population shame itself with the use of language they have manufactured. They laugh at the common people, and they even laugh at the educated ones who adopt their language. They know they are influencing the thinking and behaviors like puppet-masters. It is a sick game they play. Freedom from this manipulation comes only with devotion to truth and a clear notion of justice. We have in the Qur'an the teaching that it is a "clear Book." Meaning, that its language can be understood as straight, pure, trustworthy communication and instruction. Its sacred nature as communication can be seen without obstructions, and its message of respect for human life and human destiny, holding the human existence in sacred regard, can be appreciated and applied without trouble. The Holy Qur'an and the Islamic message indicate where the problems exist for man in clear, direct language. It is a Generous Recitation because it feeds us that which is healthy in so many various and beneficial ways. Prophet Muhammed is referred to also as one giving "clear instructions," not ambiguous or suspect. And it also says do not speak to the Prophet or each other in an intentionally unclear manner.
So what is 'correct' as language can only be truth. The Holy Qur'an says "and what would challenge truth, except error?" In other words, correct language can only be truthful language. What is it saying that someone wants to twist the meaning of 'correct' to categorize a strain of political speech? If 'political correctness' means making truth ambiguous for some politically expedient purpose then it is not 'correct' or truth at all. It is the opposite. It is a path to error. When we are referring to error in this way we mean falsehood, and the scheme to deprive or oppress. The Deceiver is the oppressor. And it is given in the Qur'an that his power is only that to invite. He cannot compel. He cannot guide. His scheme is exposed by truth.
The whole heaven and earth, Allah, our Lord and Creator, has made a 'safe space.' He says to us to "seek forgiveness and a Garden that which is the expanse of heaven and earth." We have to see the world in the picture that Allah shows us, and not the picture of delusion that the Deceiver shows. He dresses up this world with false pictures, and invites man to false objectives, delusions. The world under his influence will walk you straight to hell.
Any person that adopts the language and reasoning of this world is on the road to hell. You cannot possibly be on the road to the Garden. So, Allah says "seek forgiveness..." Forgiveness from what? Forgiveness from doubting G'd's clear communication about your human worth and your human destiny. Once you are under the discipline of admitting that you have been influenced by the language of the world, then the world and the heaven and the Garden will be shown clearly to you, and you will reject the language and reasoning of 'political correctness' for all of these issues that seek to weaken human society, and in your rejection of that falsehood you will see the beauty in the world and the destiny as the Garden of peace and safety. A true 'safe space.' This whole process takes place in the thinking and the moral sensitivities. The mind and the heart.
The African-American community is still too dependent on other people to solve their problems. It is a disrespect to our humanity, and our human properties that we have been blessed with as a part of the construction of our human identity that we share with all other humans on this planet, to constantly be told by political leaders (who value celebrity like entertainers) that we have to look to the white race, or government, to address our needs and condition. I don't care how "woke" you think you are. If your whole program is condemnation of the white race, and then a strategy to guilt them into providing for you by the use of the public treasury as a compensation for slavery and its abuses, you are still thinking like the property of white slave-owners. You don't have to agree with me. I can tell you that a people that hold up their entertainers as their moral leaders and teachers are a people that are not conscious, not "woke." They are a people taken off by pied-pipers. And the pied-piper did not write his own song. That song, that language coming from his flute, was written by the Schemer. So, you think you are following someone who is "woke." But, in actuality you are following the script written for that piper to play on his flute.
We will not have the establishments that are needed in our African-American communities until our people think as free human beings, ready to engage this material world in the same determination and sense of entitlement to it that others engage it with. This first dawns in 'correct' thinking and 'correct' sensitivities about what is truth and justice. Truth is the realization that you are a human being created in the picture of your human life that G'd intended, the same exact human creation as other humans in the essential abilities and properties. Justice is knowing that you have been given the favor of G'd as a descendant of the first human, and the responsibility and trust to manage your own affairs that He gave Adam, He also gave to you as Adam's descendant. If America does not give you the respect of being Adam's descendant to the degree that it should, then it is intelligent to find a place on the earth that does. But, I can tell you, don't underestimate America or the American idea. Don't borrow from those who shame the American idea with their bigotry, narrow nationalism, and artificial patriotism. America is a moral construct. Its founding idea has been abused, but it has purity in it. As I said in the first part of this answer, the American idea in its fundamental recognitions respects the true picture of man. I do not like to say this but it is 'politically correct' black leaders creating artificial 'safe-spaces' promoting subjective falsehoods that purposely project a picture of America that stir and provoke a sense of hopelessness for black people.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was a man with a third-grade education from Georgia in the last part of the 19th century. His education in terms of the Jim-Crow South speaking to his worth as a human being or a black man was nil. But, when he was shown his human possibilities by a new thinking on his status as a black man, he was the one that told the whole race of black people of America: "Go for self." The whole 'woke' movement is evolved from his thinking that came in the line of our great champions of truth and justice. If you want to be correct and safe then follow that tradition, or at least follow where it points. And, don't cheat the truth by denying its light with your silly mouth and silly mind. I am not speaking to the questioner. I am speaking to those who attempt to justify their failures and weaknesses by blaming circumstances. You are not just a creature of circumstances. You are a creature with a well-defined purpose. Don't cheat this tradition. It began with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It was completed as a body of knowledge and determination by his son, Imam W. Deen Mohammed. It continues with me, the first and legitimate leader after Imam W. Deen Mohammed for his people. That is correct and safe.