Being in Prison with Rev. Moon Was a Blessing from God
Hafiz Farid is a writer who lives in East Orange, New Jersey, and participates in a cultural center in Newark. Since his release from Danbury he has maintained close contact with Mr. Kamiyama and other church members, often bringing his son with him on visits to the World Mission Center.
I met Rev. Moon the morning after he came to prison in Danbury. I won’t forget it. It was a very warm sunny day. He and Mr. Kamiyama were sitting on two rocks, watching the young men play basketball. I was walking over to the basketball courts.
Of course by this time everyone knew that Rev. Moon was there. I remember the night he came in. There was lots of fanfare — helicopters hovering overhead, news reporters outside. It was probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened in Danbury. When he came in that night it was about 11:30 and I didn’t try to disturb him. I know the feeling of coming into a prison, leaving your family, leaving what you have, and coming into a situation like that. The clothes you have are taken away and you’re given prison clothes, you’re assigned a number, a mug shot is taken, and you’re fingerprinted. One of the most negative experiences I remember was getting fingerprinted. A guard just grabs your hand and presses your fingers down, presses your thumbs down. That experience is something I will never forget. So knowing that he just went through all this, I didn’t want to disturb him.
But I knew that I wanted to speak to him. Just being interested in him as a controversial figure was one thing, but my being a religious man was another. I am a student of theology. I am a Muslim and have been for about 15 years now I had heard of Rev. Moon. I had seen his posters while walking around New York.
But all I had heard was the propaganda, the slander, bow he takes people and seduces them into his cult, brainwashing them and all that. Now I didn’t necessarily believe that hook, line, and sinker. I had a different perspective than most people in Danbury, because I had come from an organization that had also been persecuted, so my relationship with Rev. Moon was of a different nature, I think, than probably anybody else there.
First of all, the discrimination that I have known because of being black in America is very real. Rev. Moon said in court that if he had been a white man and Presbyterian his trial would never have taken place. So there was a kindred spirit between us. We bore a similar burden, so we could have a certain connection.
My Reason for Being in Prison Started to Unfold
And then I was one of the few people at Danbury who believed in God. I was the leader of the Muslim organization in the prison. I was called an imam. There were about 10 or 12 inmates in our organization; sometimes even as many as 20. Our religion has had similar propaganda, and has been vilified by the press, so I could understand very, very well. I had seen religious people, people like Martin Luther King Jr., go to prison. So was looking at Rev. Moon from a different point of view from most people. I now had a chance to meet Rev. Moon face to face and I knew that it was a magnificent opportunity, a great opportunity, and I recognized that my being in Danbury was a blessing from God. My reason for being in prison started to unfold.
I saw Rev. Moon sitting there and I took the opportunity to go over to see him. No one was talking to him at the time. I heard that the night before a couple of people had come down to speak with him, mostly out of curiosity. But I think I was the first person to actually come over and sit down and talk with him. I asked Mr. Kamiyama what his name was and I said my name was Hafiz Farid, and that I was glad to meet him. Mr. Kamiyama is a very warm, personable individual. Not that Rev. Moon is not also that way, but Rev. Moon, like all religious people, has a certain firmness and strength. One has to be very strong to be a true servant of God. One has to make sure in this world that one has high moral excellence, uncompromising standards, and no weakness. But on the other hand he has a loving aspect, a compassionate aspect. I’m sure his pictures convey this. He is a very loving man, and a very warm man, but he is also very stern, firm, and strong.
So Mr. Kamiyama and I started talking. I said I didn’t know whether Rev. Moon spoke English at that time or how well. I had heard that Mr. Kamiyama was designated as his interpreter. I said I’d like to ask Rev. Moon a question. And then he kind of turned to Rev. Moon, and Rev. Moon said, “Not now’ He referred to the fact that the guards were watching very closely so that he didn’t preach to the inmates. But I said I just wanted to know what the basic tenets of Rev. Moon’s church were.
Having been told not to preach, Rev. Moon and Mr. Kamiyama didn’t want to start talking. It was their first day in prison and they were trying to comply. But I said, “Well, we’re just talking!’ Then I explained to him that I was the leader of a Muslim organization, and there was this immediate recognition. You know, religious people have a sort of affinity toward each other, a common bond that you just don’t see among atheists. And my saying that kind of struck a warm chord, so I sat down. And Rev. Moon answered my question very briefly. He said, “Unification. Oneness. All religions should come together to fight Satan.” Then he asked me a question. He said, “Do you think God likes to see Muslims killing Christians, Christians killing Muslims, Jews killing Christians, or Jews killing Muslims? God does not like that.” I could find no reason not to accept that truth. It was basic to my own teachings and I think to all religious teaching.
I Started to See His Greatness
In Islam we believe there is one God, the father of all humanity. And the prophets are a line of messengers sent to preach to the people. The ultimate aim of all people is to return to God. So the historical and scriptural teachings of Islam are compatible with Unification thinking.
So because of what I believe in, I was immediately impressed by what Rev. Moon said. I didn’t see any way-out, cultish type of ideology in anything he had said thus far. I automatically could understand, because we were speaking from a universal plane of consciousness.
We continued to talk, and Rev. Moon said that he had recently sponsored a world tour for young people to visit all the religious centers of the world. I was amazed. In our religion, in Islam, for a man to sponsor a trip to send people on a religious pilgrimage around the world would be one of the greatest acts of charity that could be done. To go yourself would be a great act of obedience, but to send other people at your expense would be an act of devotion that would please God immensely. I just thought about the greatness of a man who would do that. I started to see the greatness of Rev. Moon and his relationship with God.
At first Mr. Kamiyama would start to translate, but then Rev. Moon would break in and speak in English. Many people there never knew how well he could speak English or understand it. Rev. Moon has an aloofness, characteristic of his wisdom. He didn’t make a display of his knowledge. I think it is characteristic of a person’s wisdom not to talk too much.
People often ask me, “Did you have trouble talking with Rev. Moon? Was there a language barrier?” Most people don’t know how well he speaks. Of course he has a heavy accent and his voice has a rather gruff quality. But even that aspect has a certain attractiveness to it. It is not the voice of a trained actor. Just a very real voice. When God called Moses, he said to God, “I can’t speak very well.” The passage implies that he may have had a speech impediment. So God said, “I will give you Aaron. Aaron can be your man, but you’re my man” God is not looking for eloquence or articulateness but for pureness of heart and faith. And I have learned that. A lot of great men in history have had that same quality — a commonness, a realness. Not phoniness, not eloquence, but an emphasis on truth and reality. When people asked me about the language barrier I would say that Rev. Moon’s words weren’t as hard for me to understand as his accent.
Rev. Moon’s Terminology
The problem most people had was understanding his theological terminology. I would have had the same problem had I not applied my mind for years studying theology, religious terminology, the scriptures, and the words of the prophets. And being able to understand what he was talking about made me feel very good. Sometimes Rev. Moon would just be totally engrossed in a topic with me and someone would just barge in. Some people just don’t have the proper manners or etiquette to excuse themselves; they just interrupt the conversation. They would come in thinking they were right in tune with what we were saying and try to get in on the conversation, but they would actually be totally out of tune. Rev. Moon would not become angry or refuse to respond to them or tell them to go away. But what would happen was, after sitting there listening for a minute, they would usually leave, because most of the time Rev. Moon’s terminology would sound like a foreign language to them.
He used certain words, especially when he talked about God. Throughout all the scriptures — the Bible, the Quran, the Torah — allegories and parables are used. Rev. Moon would use those as well as scientific terminology. One time Rev. Moon was discussing God and creation and the relationship between object and subject, and it was hard for anyone else to come in on the conversation.
But sometimes he would talk about very simple truths. One very important thing he talked about was marriage. He said marriage has to be grounded in God’s love. If it not based on God’s love it cannot stand, it cannot last. One time I had a conversation with him about racism. We were talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and their teachings about racism. Rev. Moon said that’s not the way racism is going to be destroyed. Condemning racism just kind of fuels it. But what we have to do is come together in love and marry between different races and have children, end through the generations the differences in color will start to diminish. This is what God wants. He said, “I know many people in America hate me for saying this, but this is God’s plan. If they don’t want to go along with it they will have to go to the back of the liner
Most people there were misinformed and had some very negative misconceptions of Rev. Moon. Not only has racism permeated American society, but there is also an anti-foreign prejudice, too, that is very, very pervasive. This is starting to be broken down now. There is an upheaval, so to speak, the rising up of people who have traditionally been held down and looked upon as rejected people. You can see the rise of Japan as a technological giant, and the rise of Korea. Rev. Moon and I used to talk about this. Oriental culture is coming back again to be the great and glorious culture it once was. Rev. Moon would talk about the providential time, and how God works, actually causing this to come about now, finally bringing East and West together, and I find the relationship to be very, very beautiful.
His Life Is a Prayer
Every morning Rev. Moon could be seen with Mr. Kamiyama sitting outside at about 5 o’clock, meditating and reading. I would be up going to work and I would see them. I wouldn’t interrupt them at that time. We Muslims have prayer in the very early morning hours also, the dawn prayer. Someone asked me once, one of his followers, “Is it true that Rev. Moon prays all the time and gets only two or three hours of sleep?” And so I said, “Well, I never watched Rev. Moon 24 hours a day. But I can tell you this: His entire lifestyle, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from what I and other people have seen, is an act If submission to God.” Prayer is a ritual, and different religions have different rituals, but the real meaning of prayer is when you actually get up from the prayer how it reflects in your life, your will, your thoughts. In our attitude we have to be bowing every day.
So his life is a prayer. I’ve never seen him angry, I’ve never seen him complain. I never saw him speak harshly to another individual. I never saw him reject any individual’s question, or refuse to answer him.
Rev. Moon was always reading. One thing that really impressed me about him was that he was a man of great knowledge, great wisdom. I knew that he had to have a lot of knowledge to be able to speak about the subject of God and theology and religion and withstand the attack of scholars and scientists. One has to have done his own work. And yet with all his wisdom, he was continually studying. And this made me understand that he is still open to new knowledge. He has not reached that point that some men reach where they think they know it all.
There wasn’t anything special about the way he worked; he displayed a simple quality of humanness. Most of the prophets of God were men who went among the people: Jesus was a carpenter, Moses tended sheep. They simply went about their tasks with no feeling of arrogance or an attitude that they were too good for the job. Every person had to admire Rev. Moon, even if they didn’t agree with him, for the fact that he was a man dealing with the reality of the situation with no complaints; he didn’t ask for anything special. He didn’t walk around acting different. That’s admirable. There are so many famous people who clamor to be noticed, who clamor for the microphone. I think that’s a litmus test for God’s man, that he doesn’t seek the praise of other people, but focuses on God.
There Weren’t a Lot of People Around Him
Danbury was very picturesque. From the back, Danbury overlooked a beautiful lake. Rev. Moon would sit out on the hill, always in a cross-legged position. Most of the time he would be sitting there by himself. Later on Bill Sheppard became his companion and also a man named Tony. But Rev. Moon spent a lot of solitary hours; there weren’t a lot of people around him.
There was a common feeling among most of the prisoners, a mentality common in America, that men really have to be macho. Most of the inmates had never been to prison before, so they came in with this arrogant feeling that you have to be tough or else other people will push you around. And along with that were the propaganda and the misconceptions about Rev. Moon, about his being a charlatan and a cult leader out to take people’s money. That attitude pervaded the camp. So because of all those factors a lot of people didn’t come to Rev. Moon, even though they might have wanted to know about him. They had an opportunity to have asked him questions face to face, but they missed it because of their attitude.
When I reached out to him that first day I knew there were going to be conversations about me but I didn’t care. I just wanted to have the benefit of saying, “This is what he told me himself’ It was an invaluable opportunity. But because of the inmates’ misconceptions and their feeling that, “Well, I know where he’s at; most of them wouldn’t even go near him. They never told him directly what they thought about him; they would only whisper about him, because his whole demeanor is one of firmness. And a lot of people didn’t approach him because they were afraid other people would laugh. But there were always some people who would come up to him, you know, people looking for jobs. They had heard about his wealth and so they thought he might help them out.
There was a little joke going around that if you were seen talking with him, someone would come up to you and say, “Well, I guess you’ll be selling flowers soon” They started calling Kamiyama Half Moon, and another one of his companions Quarter Moon. I didn’t have that problem. For one thing, Muslims have earned a respect in prison systems throughout America. Somewhat of a fear, but at least a certain respect because of our diligence and the discipline of our faith. I didn’t have to worry about my image. Everyone there knew who I was within the Muslim community. I wasn’t worried that someone might think I had been converted.
Rev. Moon and I had a healthy respect for each other. In our conversations we didn’t argue about religious dogma. It was a dialogue, a sharing. We would talk about the will of God and the desire of God.
He Always Had Time to Talk with Me
During the quiet times of the day I would sometimes go out and sit down with Rev. Moon. I always had my pencil and pad because I am a writer. I’m going to write a book about this whole experience. One day Mr. Kamiyama suggested to me that I write a book. That’s where I got the idea. So I thought of taking notes of our conversations.
At that time in the afternoon I would go over to Rev. Moon and he would usually be deeply engrossed in reading. I would apologize for interrupting him and say, “I’d like to talk with your Although I know that his study was very serious and intense, never once did he give me the feeling that he didn’t have the time. And I would sit down right next to him and ask him a question, or we might talk about what could be included in the book. We would talk about comparative religions, God, Satan, Jesus, marriage, American politics, racism, everything.
I think there is no place where people are more observed than in a prison. You see each other sleeping, walking, talking, shaving, bathing. You see how people move, you notice their body language, their face language, you feel their vibrations. From that observation, you can tell if a person is serious about what he believes in. You can tell if he is a no-nonsense person, a person not to be played with. You have to admire that kind of person whether you agree with him or not. That’s the kind of person Rev. Moon was. He was a person who demanded respect, who gave respect. Mr. Kamiyama was the same way. Kami had more interaction with people but Kami himself also was serious, sober-minded, rational, as well as warm and personable.
I left Danbury before Rev. Moon got out, on June 26. I’ll never forget the day I left. I wanted to say goodbye to him. When I told him I was leaving that day he just smiled from ear to ear, with genuine happiness. Usually when someone is getting ready to leave you can feel the negative vibrations, the anger and jealousy among the other inmates. But I really felt Rev. Moon’s warmth. He reached out and embraced me and he said, “We will connect on the outside And then he said, “Farid, we have had many, many talks about doctrine and scripture.” He had given me some of his books while he was there and I had had my friends search and search throughout New York for a Quran to give to him. First we found a Chinese Quran and then we finally found him a Korean Quran.
He said, “Always remember one thing, Farid. God’s love is greater than God’s tale.” That very profound statement really kind of summed up all the conversations we had had. No matter what dogma you follow, no matter what particular faith you have, if you don’t have love, God’s love for humanity, for people, for creation, then the law doesn’t mean very much. God’s love is greater than God’s law.