Editor’s note: On December 17, 2008, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was invited by Reverend Dr. Michael Pfleger of The Faith Community of St. Sabina, to deliver remarks at an emotional anti-violence rally at the Illinois State Building in downtown Chicago. The Chicago Police Department’s Superintendent [at the time Jody P. Weis] was present as well as high school students and parents who have lost children to gun violence. These words are as appropriate and relevant now as they were when originally delivered and perhaps even more so given America’s global blood shedding and increasingly militarized police forces operating in cities from coast to coast. Order the full messgae on MP3, CD/DVD
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
I am honored to be here this afternoon, and I greet all of you, my dear brothers and sisters; and especially those parents and grandparents who have lost their loved ones to gun violence, with the greeting words of peace. We say it in the Arabic language: As-Salaam Alaikum, which means Peace Be Unto You. This is a greeting that we should learn, and a greeting that we should practice. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, all of the Israelite prophets greeted their community with: “Shalom, Shalom,” which means peace.
When Jesus walked this earth among us, he never came to his disciples and said, “What’s happening?” or, “What up, Dawg?” He said, “Peace Be With You.” He didn’t speak English; he spoke Ancient Egyptian Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, so when Jesus greeted the people, he said, As-Salaam Alaikum, because he, in that greeting, crystallized a prayer. That from his lips and from his hands and from his life you should expect that which would bring peace into your lives.
The cause and effect of wicked policies
There is a saying that reads like this: “Children do what is natural until they learn what is normal.”
Any child that you see, whether it is Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or Native American; whether it is Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, the child does what is natural, like learning to crawl, pull up on things that will help it to become erect and to walk—we didn’t teach it those things. But then, the child learns to become normal. Normal means that you learn the norms, which are the folkways and the mores of the society or the culture in which you live. But then if we keep watching, we go further and further away from the natural; but yet, we are still considered normal.
Everybody is looking for somebody to straighten out a mess that was made, unfortunately, by those in authority. We cannot stem the violence that is here at the bottom, which is an effect, unless we look at the violence that begins at the top, which is the cause. We are the effect of a cause that we did not stem the tide of, and now it’s manifesting in the children.
Every mother; every grandmother that lost a child, we who are here today feel your pain. Although we are trying to be good and righteous people; we go to church; we pay our tithes; we do what good parents and good people should do, some of us lose faith in God when a misfortune comes into our house. While we can never bring back what we lost, we have to ask the question, “Why should this come into my life?”
There is a verse in the Holy Qur’an, which is the book of scripture of Muslims, that says, “No soul dies but by the permission of God.” God gives life, and He is the ultimate cause of death, so why did He permit this? If these children had not died, would we be here? Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” because he had some disciples who were disrespecting the value of children. We live in a society where we are not looking out for the elderly or the young; and many of us who are pastoring, we pay no attention to children because they don’t tithe! So it is only when something affects children that it wakes us up to something terribly wrong!
Dear mothers: Your children did not die in vain, because nothing advances in civilization without the sacrifice of life. Let us refer to the example of the life of Jesus: He had a mother that nurtured him; he came from among a people and a group that evidently were not so good, because the scripture says, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” As it is with people today who think the same: “Can any good come out of the South Side or the West Side? Can any good come out of Chicago—the murder capital of the world?” Yes. Of course good did come, but that good died young.
Those in positions of power lied on Jesus, because they didn’t want to deal with his truth, so they brought him to court. The people hated Jesus, and the Book says they hated him without a cause. He was rejected of men. He knew what it was to suffer, and he knew what it was to be scourged. And ultimately, he died a violent death, so that others might have a right to the tree of life.
Beloved family; those dear mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers, and friends and relatives are in great pain because someone they loved died in their youth. Grandmothers had to bring their grandchildren to their final resting place. But remember: Your child, your friend and your companion did not die in vain. Every life with God is sacred! And those children that lost their lives are martyrs for the Cause of Justice and Peace!
The culture of violence starts at the top
We say we want sensible gun laws, but we are demanding it from government at the same time that our government has the highest military budget of any nation in the world; developing more and more weapons to kill more and more people! How can the violence stop on the bottom, when the violence is perpetrated by policies at the top?
It is painful to me to say these truths in the presence of the superintendent of police [Jody P. Weis] and in the presence of other government officials here today, because the truths that I speak, sometimes, are uncomfortable, but it is not done out of hate. I speak these truths because I love; and I want to see things better. Not just better for my people or for my children, but better for all children.
Are our children our assets, or are they liabilities? Do we have problem children? Or do our children have a problem? And if our children have a problem, they are not the cause—they are the effect.
Every mother in here that has brought forth a child, that child came through you, but not from you. Since it is God Who gives life, then He permits life to be formed in your womb. The Qur’an says that to God is the eventual return of all life. So we come in at some point, and at some point, we have to leave here. If the eventual return is to God, because it is from Him that we came, then every child is a gift from God. Not only to the mother and father, but a gift to that family! A gift to that community! A gift to that nation! A gift to the world!
Jesus said, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” Why do we, as parents, lie to our children? Violence begins with lies, because you’re violating the mind when you tell a lie. When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” what is it that you would be set free from? It is freedom from the things that are the reason why we are assembled today.
In the Bible, Paul said, “We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places.” High places are where the problems begin!
When you have a lust for something, like Air Jordan shoes or designer clothes, and mother can’t get it for you, why would you steal from your brother or your neighbor because of an inordinate value placed on something that has no real value? The real value is you and your life! Your friendship and brotherly love! The real value is the ability to live together in peace!
But in those high places, there is a lust for oil. Our government and our country is a slave to the energy crisis produced by an inordinate need for oil. The government is just like the drug addict, who will lie and cheat and steal to get their hands on a drug. Any parent in here that has a child that has unfortunately fallen victim to drugs, you know they are artful liars and manipulators. The addict will manipulate their parents and friends who love them, just to get their hands on something that will allow them to get something that will make them high.
In those high places, there are bad policies developed that are so wicked and deceptive so that our government can extract the wealth of others. You can’t stop drugs in the inner cities or in the suburbs if you don’t understand that the government of the United States is in Afghanistan where all the poppies grow. These drugs weren’t so easily accessible when the Taliban had power, because the drug growth was down then. Once the Taliban lost power, now the drugs are flowing; heroin everywhere, and someone is getting rich at the top, while our children are going to jail for what they have in their possession.
Our real wealth is in our children
In the scriptures of Matthew and Luke, it reads, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” As parents, and those in positions of authority, our treasure is not where it should be. Our priorities are not where they should be. And in the Holy Qur’an, you always have the following words shown simultaneously: “Your wealth and your children …” because our children represent our real wealth. But where should our hearts be?
Should our hearts be on the latest Gucci or alligator style? The latest designer-this or the latest “bling-bling” that? Where should our hearts be? It should be where our treasure is, and our treasure is our children.
I have been practically all over the world, however, everywhere I go in Chicago, I find that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We who live here are blessed to live in this great city, but it’s a great city that needs a lot of great work to be done. Billions of dollars are spent on constructing huge building projects, but when you look at the education budget, we are not constructing these beautiful young lives as they should be.
The greatest asset of America is her people, and if our treasure is in our people, then the billions of dollars that the government is throwing away to bail out corporations like AIG, Bear Stearns, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, why not put those billions of dollars to work on making giants out of these precious gifts—our youth—that God has given to America?
President-elect Barack Obama was a child just like these children who are here. He struggled in his young life, conflicted because he had a White mother and a Black father, and wanted to find his place. However, that young man got a grip on his life, just like we want you, youth, to get a grip on yours. Mr. Obama received an education, and then rose to the top of his class. And, in a meteoric rise, has become the first African American to become president of the United States of America.
Who are our youth now? Who will they be tomorrow if we cultivate them properly? Our youth are like putty; but putty is only valuable in the hands of the one that is going to shape it properly. As we are being shaped by our homes, our churches, and our society, then all of these shapers have to shape up.
The misconstrued power in weapons
Do we need guns? No. Where did they come from? Who gets these violent weapons into the hands of our children? Why aren’t those responsible being prosecuted instead of our children?
In this world, power is what moves people, and because many of us don’t realize that the real power is in the youth, a gun is put into a child’s hand, where they are told, “This is power.” This misconstrued concept of power in a weapon is what causes you to get a man to give up his wallet; or causes somebody to give up their own self to you if you are going to rape them. That is the misuse of weapons.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is our teacher, and he taught us that none of us, as Muslims, should carry a weapon—we don’t need them. We are not permitted to carry as much as a pen knife, because our aim is to show the world that we are a people of peace. We are not even permitted to argue with one another, because when you quarrel with one another, you destroy the spirit that would bring you unity, which would give you power to eradicate the impediments in the pathway of your progress.
But if we are always arguing and fighting, particularly in our homes where most of the problems take place, then it’s “I reach for my gun to settle my problem;” or, “I shoot my wife,” or she shoots her husband. Now the child sees guns every time they look at the TV. This is violence that is being promoted, so the violence is now down in the kindergarten. If we have a problem, then we must practice talking it out, because we must not harm our brother.
Let’s be truthful in our dealings with each other. Let’s learn how to love, which starts with loving our own self. If you don’t know you, you can’t love you.
Black children have to know themselves in order to love themselves. If our children knew their rich history, their rich culture, their rich heritage, we would have a healthier view of who we are, and Whose we are.
When we see our brother, though he may be a “Crip,” a “Blood;” or he may be a “BG” or a “BD,” we must see that I am looking at my flesh. I am looking at my blood. I’m looking at myself. So if I love my self, and love my neighbor as myself, we can start building community.
I want to work with Father Pfleger, and I want to work with Superintendent Weis and others, to let us try and make this city a peaceful city.