Black Muslims no longer consider the late Elijah Muhammad as either a prophet or a special messenger of God, an official of the movement declared here.
Emam Kamal Majid, 43, Muslim cultural affairs director and coordinator of youth programs, told the Religion News Writers Association here Sunday night that Wallace Muhammad has repudiated his father's claims to divine authority.
Wallace Muhammad assumed leadership of the organization on his father's death in 1975 and has brought sweeping changes to the group known to outsiders as Black Muslims but which now calls itself the New World Community of Islam in the West.
According to Majid, a former Baptist Sunday school teacher who has been a Muslim for more than 20 years, followers of the faith still honor Elijah Muhammad despite the theological downgrading.
Elijah Muhammad "taught the way he felt Islam would be the most successful," Majid explained.
"Whether the tactics he used were right, God will have to decide."
Under Wallace Muhammad's leadership, the Muslim group abolished much of the secrecy of its affairs and dropped its militant hostility toward white people, opening its membership ranks to all comers, Majid said.
"The honorable Wallace Muhammad has worked hard to destroy color consciousness and has opened our doors to all regardless of race," Majid said. He acknowledged that "the changes he brought about came so rapidly they startled our community."
Majid indicated that under Wallace Muhammad's leadership, the Black Muslims are forging closer ties with Arab countries. A projected new $15 million mosque and educational center is to be built here with Arab funds, he said.
He also called for cooperation with other religious groups. "We must work with other people to make America a better place to live," he said, adding that "America has the potential for being the best place on earth."
In answer to a question, Majid said he did not find it "a shock" to accept the teachings of the younger Muhammad, even though in many areas they represented a racial about-face, because they "made sense . . .
"I represented the honorable Elijah Muhammad in Philadelphia and south Jersey and Boston for 20 years and I believed in what I felt he believed in," he said. But when I heard the honorable Wallace Muhammad I felt here was a more powerful instruction of a wiser instrument" of God.