City's new Muslim leader plans to seek religious kinship Washington native wants thriving Islamic community, ties with other faiths

September 06, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

In his first news conference as leader of one of Baltimore's largest Muslim communities, Imam E. Abdul-malik Mohammed said yesterday that he wants to develop strong ties with all of the city's religious leaders while building a thriving Islamic community.

"Baltimore seems to be a special place for this relationship between the religions," Mohammed said. "If the Catholics can flourish in Baltimore and the Jews can flourish in Baltimore, then why not the Muslims and why not together?"

The 32-year-old Washington native was elected by the Muslim American Society two weeks ago to lead Muslims in Baltimore who are under the overall leadership of Wallace D. Mohammed, who leads the nation's largest Islamic organization.

Wallace Mohammed, 63, is the son of the late black nationalist Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam. He became head of the Nation of Islam in 1975 after his father's death but later changed the name of the group to the Muslim American Society, which has more than 1.5 million members.

The group is separate from Minister Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, which promotes black nationalism and has been criticized for making divisive comments about other religions, particularly Judaism.

Abdul-malik Mohammed, who has been Wallace Mohammed's national spokesman for the past six years, said his followers will promote religious tolerance as Muslim leaders Earl and Eric El-Amin have tried to do over the last four years in the city.

"We've had dialogue with the Jewish community as well as with the Catholic community," Earl El-Amin said. "We have had [Muslim leaders] speak in synagogues."

Abdul-malik Mohammed, who became a Muslim at 15 shortly after hearing Wallace Mohammed speak on the radio, oversees two mosques and two Muslim religious centers with more than 1,000 members.

He said he plans to have Wallace Mohammed visit Baltimore regularly from his Chicago base to speak and promote events. Wallace Mohammed will be in Baltimore to speak to Jewish organizations Tuesday.

The group also plans to develop Muslim communities in the city with educational, cultural and religious centers, Abdul-malik Mohammed said. Officials also plan to seek representation in local, state and federal government.

"I intend to work hard to improve the image of Islam," he said.

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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