January 30, 2017
D.C.’s Local Muslim Communities And Trump’s Washington
Communities across the D.C. region are still sorting out what Donald Trump’s presidency will mean at the local level for them.
Few of them are approaching these questions with as much urgency as local Muslim communities, which are now considering how a new executive order on immigration will affect members and their families.
On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, Kojo spoke with Ibrahim Mumin, the community outreach adviser to Masjid Muhammad in the Shaw neighborhood of the District. They talked about his community’s relationship with its neighbors, how it’s evolved over time – and where he feels things could be heading in today’s political environment.
Take a listen:
Read the Transcript:
Kojo Nnamdi: Ibrahim Mumin, could you tell us a little bit about what you do for a living?
Ibrahim Mumin: Well, first of all Kojo, thank you for inviting me to participate in the show. I’m a community economic development consultant and I’ve been doing this for about 20 years. And I remember once having a discussion with my mother and she said, “Exactly, what does that mean?” I work with business people, both large and small and help them solve problems. For example, I was a consultant on the city center project, CityCenterDC, City Market at O Street. Actually, you know how far I go back. I was a consultant on the building of the Walter Washington Convention Center. What I’ve done with those projects – I’ve worked with the developers to make sure that they meet their targets in terms of hiring local D.C. residents, which is required because of the first source law here in D.C. and also to make sure that small business owners in D.C. get their portion of the 35 percent that’s required as a part of the set aside here in the District of Columbia.
Nnamdi: Well, I have known you for several decades and several leadership positions here in the District of Columbia going back to the director of the Shaw project area committee and before. But what was your journey to Islam? You were born in the United States. You’re African American. Were you born Muslim?
Mumin: No, I was not born Muslim. I got involved. You know — I became an activist as a teenager and that’s why I have a lot of respect for the young people who are agitating now. I tried to go to an all-white library in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia and got arrested because the laws in Columbus segregated people by race. Moving forward, the next year – 1965 — I came to Howard University and got involved in the student movement and was very active. And then somehow, I think I heard a speech by Elijah Muhammad. And I was impressed by him and what he was doing and joined the nation of Islam in 1973 and continued my work in activism and when Muhammad passed in 1975 — when his son Wallace Muhammad took over — of course, he expanded our horizon and brought us into universal Islam.
Nnamdi: As things in the country have begun to change, I’d like you to talk about two things that Courtland Milloy wrote about in the Washington Post in a column last year. The first of which is that there were some far right groups that, in some way, focused on the Masjid. What was that all about?
Mumin: This is in October of, you know, 2015, I think, when – the weekend that the Million Man March was being celebrated. We were contacted by the FBI and Homeland Security that there had been some credible threats picked up on the Internet of a group called, what do they call themselves? The Oath Keepers — some place out like in Arizona or Arkansas or whatever — who had put on their website that they wanted to organize anti-Islamic rallies at – and they targeted 20 mosques around the country, and for some reason, one of them they targeted was Masjid Muhammad. They said what they wanted to do was bring 3,000 armed people and have a protest in front of the mosque after our prayer. And we met with the people with the Metropolitan Police and the Homeland Security and the FBI and they discussed this and we came up with our security plan. We have a wonderful brother who’s in charge of security out at our Masjid. And we were prepared to deal with that. And so — on that Friday — I think the 9th of October, nobody showed up. I don’t know exactly what happened, but we felt fortunate. A wonderful thing happened in our preparation — we were in a meeting on the day of our prayer. After the prayer, we went outside and there was this white woman putting up fliers on the lamppost and I thought she was part of the protest, and I went and asked her, “Could I see the flier she was putting up?” And she said, “Sure, you’re happy to have one.” And I looked at the flier, and the flier said, “This is a hate-free zone. The residents in this neighborhood stand with Masjid Muhammad.” And I was really touched. First of all, I didn’t know this lady and we had not solicited any help, but the neighbors are – put this up on their own. So, unlike what was happening with this negative election cycle where people were being – where particular parties were giving speeches demonizing Muslims, we had a positive relationship of love and mutual respect with people in our neighborhood in the Shaw community.
Nnamdi: And that has not changed as a result of this very divisive election period that we have had?
Mumin: No, in fact the interesting thing is that Masjid Muhammad was one of the founding members of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Fast-forward to 2017, now our current Imam, Imam Talib Shareef is the president this term of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. He’ll be the president for two years. And so, historically, as well as contemporarily, we’ve been involved with Interfaith work here in the city. And in fact, just before, I think, Thanksgiving, there was a press conference at Masjid Muhammad where many faith leaders came, including three rabbis to talk about how they were standing with the Masjid Muhammad. In fact, I think it was Rabbi Moline. I may be mispronouncing his name, I think it’s Moline. He made the statement during his comments that if Donald Trump establishes a registry for Muslims, he’s going to become a Muslim to have his name put on the registry.
Nnamdi: So that instead of this divisive presidential campaign fraying the relationship that – the interfaith relationship that Muslims from your Masjid – have on this community, it would appear that it has strengthened it.
Mumin: It has strengthened it. In fact, recently some neighbors sent emails to Imam Talib Shareef and said they wanted to get together and talk about what they could because they’re concerned about our safety with – see, the problem with the kind of dangerous rhetoric that was happening during the last campaign – particularly coming from Trump and some of his other people who were seeking to become the Republican nominee, you have some people who go over the head. I think about a month ago, I went to visit the pizza shop up on Connecticut Avenue, where some deranged guy came from North Carolina. You probably know about it.
Nnamdi: Comet Ping Pong Pizza.
Mumin: Yeah, yeah. But I went there to show my support for the owners who had done nothing, but they were the victims of this rhetoric where some person is — takes it out to lunch. And what I tell people, and the reason we have to be careful and safety conscious at Masjid Muhammad. All you need is one crazy with an automatic AK-47 or A-15 — or whatever one of those guns is — and you could end up with a situation like happened in Charleston, South Carolina or some other place.
Nnamdi: So, I guess it’s really important to you that this community seems to have come together against that.
Mumin: There’s a quote that says, “The price for freedom is eternal vigilance.” We’re disappointed that we have to do this, but we’re gonna rise to the occasion. And we know that – and we say that Allah Akbar, that God is greater. And when I was involved in the civil rights movement, we used to say, when we sang, “We shall overcome,” we would say and “God is on our side.”
Nnamdi: And that is an indication of the kind of neighborhood-community solidarity that you can find in some neighborhoods in Washington. Ibrahim Mumin, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mumin: Ok, thank you for inviting me, Kojo.
Nnamdi: And we’ll talk again soon.