Accidental death or murder?By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Nov 10, 2015 - 11:51:04 AM
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A campaign for justice for Muslim minister who died in Grand Rapids, Mich.
- (For more information or to sign the petition, go to Justiceorelse.com/RobertM.)
It has been over a year since Robert Dion Muhammad, the 39-year-old leader of the Nation of Islam’s Grand Rapids Study Group, went missing in the waters of Muskegon State Park’s campground beach last year. According to Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler, his body was found the next day in Muskegon Lake in 28 feet of water. Details are sketchy but it has been reported that he struggled during an attempted swim, went underwater, and drowned.
Muslims concerned with the status of the investigation traveled Oct. 31 from the surrounding areas of Benton Harbor and Detroit, Mich., as well as Rockford, Ill., Chicago, Ill., and some from as far away as St. Louis. Led by Anthony Muhammad, Student Assistant Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam, and the Student Central Regional Captain Dwayne Muhammad, the Fruit of Islam canvassed Grand Rapids neighborhoods, along with Berve Muhammad, Student National Secretary of the Nation of Islam. Despite very cool temperatures and a persistent rain, the F.O.I. went door to door and spoke with residents on streets, sharing the call for justice, offering updates on the case, handing out information brochures and collecting signatures as part of a demand for further investigation into the death.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, presided over the Islamic funeral prayer service known as the Janazah, at the Deliverance Outreach Ministries September 13, 2014. Speaking from the pulpit of the church the Minister expressed the hurt and pain of those who loved Robert D. Muhammad.
“We intend to get to the truth of what happened to our brother,” said Min. Farrakhan. Whether it was a tragic accident, or foul play involved, Allah (God), the giver of all life, already knows, he said.
“Even though we are hurt because we don’t know exactly what happened,” the Minister continued, “we bear our pain with dignity and strength.”
What really happened?
Standing before graphic photos of Robert D. Muhammad’s body, Berve Muhammad, who is also an attorney, pointed out discrepancies between the official version of events and what he said pictures showed. The explanations given by the Muskegon County officials are either incomplete or defy common sense, he said.
“There are a couple of interesting things to note about his face,” said Atty. Muhammad. “Obviously he suffered some trauma. If he just swam and went under, his face shouldn’t look like that.” The photo showed bruises and what appeared to be wounds on the face of the late student minister.
Some said maybe an object hit him underwater as he struggled to swim to the surface as an explanation for the bleeding and bruises, however, the Nation of Islam’s investigators remain unconvinced.
“Nothing floats in the middle of the water. It is either going to sink or it is going to be on top of the water but no object that’s not alive is going to be floating in the middle of the water,” Atty. Muhammad continued, “but then of course if you are in the water and something strikes you, you are just going to move with the object, so it’s very difficult to understand how these bruises would have got on his face under the water.”
And then, he drew attention to Robert Muhammad’s right hand which in the photo was morbidly frozen in the position of a tightly clenched fist.
“As you notice Brother Robert’s hand … you see his hand … there was a struggle … there looks like there was a struggle just before he died,” argued Atty. Muhammad. “These are some irregularities with respect to his body that have yet to be explained.”
According to Nation of Islam officials there were other concerns about the way the case was handled:
None of the investigators could explain the facial injuries suffered by Robert D. Muhammad.
No forensic testing or photographs were taken of the boat that the deceased swam from.
At Robert D. Muhammad’s burial, funeral director and licensed mortician Crystal Hardley, with over 17 years of experience in the industry expressed her doubts to The Final Call. “I just recognized the discoloration around his eyes did not line-up with a drowning victim,” said Ms. Hardley. “It was clearly not just a drowning,” she added.
A strong family stands for justice
The widow of Robert D. Muhammad, Sister Yreva Muhammad, has handled the death of her husband with quiet dignity and poise. The two were married in 2000 and have eight children, four sons Nioreh Dion (17), Solomon Isa (14), Toussaint Saalih (13) and Najm Sherrif (11) , and four daughters, Nikah Hanan (9), Shahadah Qamar (7), Ilyasa Mashariq-Hajj (3), and Mizan Qaharra (1) . Mr. Muhammad would have turned 40 on Sept. 6, the day his body was found by aquatic search crews.
His widow spoke words near the gravesite of her husband located at Oakhill Cemetery. She thanked Minister Farrakhan and the Believers in the Nation of Islam for supporting her and her family after her husband’s death.
“I want to thank the brothers for coming out to support and help Grand Rapids to look into this situation,” said Mrs. Muhammad. “The Minister has been supporting our family tremendously and I can’t even thank him enough. I really don’t know how to thank him enough except to give him these few words that I have of thanks and I don’t want to be found being ungrateful at all.”
She said her husband would be “very pleased” to see the support from his Muslim brothers and sisters. “He was a steadfast soldier and he worked diligently to awaken the dead here in Grand Rapids,” said Mrs. Muhammad. “We will get to the bottom of this like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said.”
Robert D. Muhammad was described by those who knew him as a committed Muslim, husband and father, always available to serve those in need. He had led the Grand Rapids Study Group since 2006 and would be reliably posted up at the corner of Eastern and Franklin— a busy intersection in Grand Rapids—distributing The Final Call newspaper.
Student Minister Marcus Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam Study Group in Benton Harbor, which is a little over 80 miles to the south of Grand Rapids, has been assisting with maintaining the Study Group since Robert D. Muhammad’s passing.
According to recent census figures, Grand Rapids is 64 percent White, nearly 21 percent Black and 16 percent Hispanic. It is the second largest city in Michigan behind Detroit, which is 168 miles to the East.
(For more information or to sign the petition, go to Justiceorelse.com/RobertM.)