- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

Excerpts from a talk given yesterday by Imam W. Deen Mohammed at the Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in the District of Columbia.

I am here today out of great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and work. There is a connection between the movement of my father [Elijha Mohammed], who passed away in 1975, and the civil-rights movement. You wouldn't think there was, because in those days we had been at odds.
We were working for the same thing: the betterment of our human conditions. The late Malcolm X played upon that difference [between the Nation of Islam and the civil-rights movement] and exploited that difference.
But I was a very lonesome fellow. I was trying to go in the direction that my better self was opening to me. The private side of my father showed me that he was in the spirit of his people, striving for freedom, self-respect and respect in the world. As far as I can look back, I have been occupied with the desire of making improvements on myself… .
My father said, "Your own self is a righteous Muslim," and that means to be the best you can. To be morally upright, intelligent and a good brother to your brother who does no wrong to anyone. In spite of what you know about him as a fiery preacher, preaching the downfall of America, my father in private said, "Do nothing to anyone you would not have done to yourself." That is Christian teaching. "Do wrong to no one," he said. "If you work for the white man, give him an honest day's work."
That side of my father I heard at home. He was also the public, fiery preacher, and I took him seriously, as all his followers did, but I also saw the other side, the family man and teacher who would tell his top officials, "Do no wrong to anyone."
Because of that home learning-environment, I was occupied all the time with, "How can I better my condition as a person?" As I look back on that, I see it as a search for my own humanity. My own excellent human life that God created, as he created Adam, created Christ Jesus, and Mohammed the prophet. When he created them, he created the persons that all of us have the need in our souls to be, the complete person, the person that God approves.
This is where I identify with Dr. King's movement and with all good Christians, all good Jews. We all have that urgency in our souls, and God has created us for that purpose, so that we would become the servants of God on this Earth.
Before the civil-rights movement, we had the freedom movement, and that was to free the slaves. And when the slaves were physically free, they were free to go after their real freedom. Freeing us as slaves was not the freedom our souls wanted as a complete freedom. That was just an opportunity to go after the complete freedom. And that complete freedom we seek is to be approved in the presence of God. "Yes, you have achieved," God will say to us. "Yes, you have achieved."
I believe God sent me an angel when He approved of my soul. A man came up to me on an airplane that day and said, "You're a free man," and then kept moving. I'm not saying he was an angel, but I believe God sent me that. I felt in my own heart that I was, "Free at last," as Dr. King said. "Thank God Almighty, free at last."
That is what all of us are seeking, and now we should forget about the black freedom-movement. Yes, we should. We should identify our movement within the human movement for freedom. We are no more wearing chains. We are no longer confined to the plantation. We are free like all other people, when it comes to our bodies. That "freedom need" has already been answered. The "freedom need" now is to free ourselves to complete the work of making ourselves a man. Yes, a man. Not a man with muscles; an ape has more muscles, so we can't compete. Free as a man. I would say this in my conclusion: A free savage is not a free man. Thank you.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Diana L. Ley of Marvin Memorial United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Md.


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