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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