Imam W. Deen Mohammed delivered the lecture “Message of Concern” at a meeting of the Committee for the Removal of All Images that Attempt to Portray the Divine (CRAID) in Dallas, Texas in 1982. CRAID was initiated in the 1970s as an interfaith movement that called for the removal of images of Jesus from Protestant and Catholic churches across the United States. Mohammed argued that images of Jesus, particularly white images of Jesus, were psychologically harmful to the African American community. The images taught black Americans to worship and suffer under a white God. Mohammed argued that removing these images from churches would aid in the uplift of black Americans, particularly black Christians. Mohammed also argued that removing the images would help black Americans recognize the message of Prophet Muhammad, Islam, and the American Muslim Mission.
“Message of Concern” highlighted the reasons why Mohammed founded CRAID and promoted its work. CRAID was intended to remove images in religion “that invite the members of the religions to worship, or to address those images as Deities, or as G-d’s [sic]” (8). Images of the white Jesus on the cross were psychologically harmful to black Americans. These images suggested that God was white and called black Americans to suffer under a white God. According to Mohammed, “But when you look at it [white image of Jesus], no such ideas can come in your mind, because your reality does not agree with that part of the image. So, isn’t this an injustice” (18). These images should be removed to repair injustice.
Removing images of Jesus was a particularly American problem for Mohammed. He argued that white images of Jesus in churches violate the United States Constitution: “This is the concept in the Constitution of these United States of America. The Constitution of the United States recognizes the sacred dignity of the human person. It does not give priority to ethnicity over what is essentially the human being” (19). Images of Jesus, particularly white images, sanctioned the divine in human form. This human form of God authorized which humans had authority and power in the world. These imaged forms of Jesus elevated whites over blacks. This violated the United States Constitution because the Constitution did not elevate one race or ethnicity over another. Rather, it upheld the dignity of all humans. According to Mohammed, the necessity of removing these images was supported by the Constitution. Removing images of Jesus was an American problem rooted in American history.
Mohammed argued that the American Muslim Mission had a particular mission in America. “The Mission is to make America deliver.” The Mission was going to make America deliver on its promises of freedom, equality, and the sacredness of human dignity. America also had to deliver on the promise in religion. According to Mohammed, the promise in religion was the Gospel’s message that “parables are going to be pushed back, and out of the way as a veil opening up for the light, and the knowledge shall come to us in plain language that all of us can understand. In other words, that wording in scripture, promises us what America in the West had tried to deliver.” Mohammed suggested that America had a particular role to play in religion, in the Gospel, in the American Muslim mission. That role was providing, “Publication education. Equal access to knowledge.” America was to fulfill the divine will of the scriptures which said that all men would recognize “the Reality of their Purpose” by accessing knowledge. Jesus promised knowledge to all people through the Gospel and Muhammad was the messenger to the illiterate. Removing images of Jesus would allow black Americans to see and fulfill the messages of Jesus and Muhammad.