Muslim leader to discuss urban renewal

His son-in-law plans a Baltimore enclave

August 14, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The leader of one of the nation's largest Muslim groups will speak about moral leadership and urban renewal tomorrow at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Wallace D. Mohammed is expected to discuss his attempts to establish Muslim communities across the country, including one in West Baltimore, and his group's use of such model communities to revive decaying inner-city neighborhoods.

The speech begins at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

Mohammed, the head of the Muslim American Society and son of the late Nation of Islam founder Elijah Mohammed, succeeded his father in 1975, but disbanded the Nation of Islam organization, which had become known for preaching black nationalism.

In 1978, Louis Farrakhan led a coup against Mohammed and resurrected the Nation of Islam. A few years later, Mohammed created the Muslim American Society, although under a different name until 1997, and steered it to a more moderate path. The movement claims 200,000 members and more than 1.5 million followers.

In May, Mohammed traveled to Saudi Arabia to begin raising money from business leaders and philanthropists for model communities in Louisville, Ky., Florence, S.C., and suburban Miami -- all built from the ground up. He hopes to raise $30 million to $50 million in his efforts.

"It is fairly common for Saudi organizations to do things like this," said Richard H. Curtiss, executive director of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. "Because [Mohammed] brought the black Muslim movement back toward traditional Islam, I would think Saudi individuals would be willing to give."

Baltimore's effort, which is similar to enhancement in areas where Muslim mosques exist, such as Harlem and Atlanta's east side, is separate from the one to build communities in Kentucky and South Carolina. Nevertheless, Baltimore could benefit from the fund raising.

Muslim American Society members are trying to establish a Muslim enclave near the Muslim Community Cultural Center, 3401 W. North Ave. in Walbrook.

Mohammed's son-in-law, E. Abdulmalik Mohammed, who lives in Baltimore County, and several business partners recently purchased property in the neighborhood -- including an apartment building in the 3300 block of W. North Ave. and another apartment complex on Garrison Boulevard -- as part of their effort.

E. A. Mohammed said the Muslim American Society plans to have dozens of Muslim families move to the area near the group's mosque and possibly build a mosque, business district and school within five years.

The Walbrook area may also become home to the regional office of Collective Purchasing Conference, a $3 million Muslim American Society business venture that distributes African clothing and goods to vendors across the country, W. D. Mohammed said. The group has not chosen a location in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 8/14/99

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