Saturday, May 15, 1999
Home Edition
Section: Metro
Page: B-2
RELIGION; Los Angeles Times
Q & A WITH W.D. MOHAMMED

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing Muslim America today?
A: Still the biggest challenge facing us, I think, is the need to be rightly identified for what is truly Islam and what is truly Muslim life. Most of us leaders tend to blame the media for the way we're imaged . . . but I know that the media get their information from the people and we have a responsibility to see that what you get is correct.

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Q: Are you talking about the image as terrorists?

A: Not only as terrorists. As fanatics, as antichrists . . . as people who force their religion on others. All of these things are far from being true, according to the teachings of our holy book and the life example of our prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

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Q: What about challenges for global Islam?

A: I think we need more moral courage. The Islamic world, those persons responsible for Islamic nations and governments, are not doing enough, in my opinion, to put pressure on bad leaders in the Islamic world and to do what Muhammad did: liberate the people who are denied freedom of expression, who are denied the right to practice their religion openly and freely.

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Q: Do you believe that there should be more [financial] support of local Muslims [by Muslim leaders]?

A: Yes I do. If I had great wealth like many individuals have in the Islamic world . . . I would be looking for opportunities to invest in better conditions for missions all over the world. And I have to acknowledge at this point that . . . the king of Saudi Arabia has been doing that. And some other countries are very charitable, but the noncitizens are not treated like their citizens.

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Q: But when nations like Saudi Arabia give out contributions, do they also try to control the agenda?

A: In Saudi Arabia it's the Wahabi school of thought . . . and they say, "We're gonna give you our money, then we want you to . . . prefer our school of thought." That's in there whether they say it or not. So there is a problem receiving gifts that seem to have no attachment, no strings attached.

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Q: Do you receive that kind of money?

A: Well, I don't receive any money now, but I have received some and I lost it . . . because I suspected some strings were attached. I said I can't accept this kind of relationship. They were choosing my friends for me, too. The enemy of the friends who were giving me money was supposed to be my enemy, too.

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