PHILADELPHIA (FinalCall.com) – Muhammad’s Mosque No. 12 held a “Stop the Killing” forum on Aug. 1 in preparation for the national protest against gun trafficking to occur on Aug. 28, which is being led by Father Michael L. Pfleger of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Brady Campaign.
A main focus of the forum was to draw attention to the high volume of guns seeded into Philadelphia’s Black community, as well as to hold purposeful dialogue around the issue of the weak gun laws in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth. Analysts have said that many of the guns used in the streets of Philadelphia have been brought legally and then sold again, in what they call “straw purchases.”
Minister Rodney Muhammad, head of Muhammad’s Mosque No.12, along with the Fruit of Islam (FOI) have been deeply involved in the efforts put forth by grassroots activists in Philadelphia to deal with the gun problem. The FOI have also served in various capacities in the Philadelphia school system during the past school year.
In the formation of the city’s Faith Advisory Task Force–a citywide coalition of clergy which helps the mayor deal with the gun issue–Mayor John Street worked closely with Min. Muhammad, appointing him to the Board of Trustees for county prisons.
“Philadelphia is now being referred to as ‘Killadelphia,’ as the city is being viewed as America’s murder capital,” Min. Muhammad told The Final Call. He said the number of murders has already reached 250 this year.
Min. Muhammad also noted that the media has paid special attention to each killing, and he figures part of that may be because there is a Black mayor and a Black police commissioner. “Focus on the killings helped shape the agenda for the recent mayoral primary,” Min. Muhammad opined, adding, “Murder has eclipsed most issues that deserve attention in the press–some that may be the causes behind the gun violence.”
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson attended the forum held at the mosque, and found himself explaining how he is handling the spike-up in calls for “stronger policing.”
“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We don’t need 1,000 more police–we need 1,000 more jobs.” The commissioner said approximately 74,000 arrests had taken place and thousands of guns confiscated.
At the forum, Attorney George Godsette spoke about the lawsuit that has been filed against the Pennsylvania legislature for their failure to allow Philadelphia to enact stronger gun laws. Observers say that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is home to the largest chapter of the National Rifle Association (NRA) next to California.
Bruce Crawley, the former chairman of the African American Chamber of Commerce also explained his view concerning the contributing factors fueling the violence:
“In Philadelphia, one in every four citizens lives in poverty and 50 percent of Black men are unemployed. Minority contracts in the city are less than four percent, while between 1977-2002, 86 million guns were manufactured. Assault weapon imports for 2006 increased by 43 percent.”
Addressing the pressing need for gun-control, Min. Muhammad told the attentive audience, “When I joined the Nation of Islam, I came under a strong gun law–I haven’t possessed a fire arm in 25 years.”
Min. Muhammad was speaking in reference to the members of the Nation of Islam being forbidden to carry any type of weapon. He then explained that part of the problem is that Americans are socialized in violence.
“The staple of the early settlers in this land was tobacco, whiskey and a firearms, and all of the above have proven a menace to healthy living,” Min. Muhammad stressed.
Minister Rodney Muhammad contributed to this article.
(For more information on the nationwide protest against guns and a list of participating cities, please visit www.BradyCampaign.org or www.RainbowPUSH.org.)