The black Muslims of America: Part Three


THE schools that were started by Elijah Muhammad multiplied.
They taught scripture, history and science from a black perspective. Elijah had acquired his philosophy from the East through his mentor and teacher W Fard.
To a great extent the Nation of Islam managed to restore pride in the black identity among the black people of America.
The Nation of Islam also taught the black people about the white man’s crimes against humanity.
Orators such as Malcolm X made many black Americans to turn to Islam.
Turning to Islam was more than about the religion.
It was about black consciousness.
The Black Muslim women wore clothes that did not expose much of their flesh. They wore long gowns and white cloths that covered their hair.
They did not change the texture of their hair by using hair relaxers or wearing weaves and wigs.
They simply combed, braided or kept their hair in dreads.
Another popular black American who joined the Nation of Islam was the popular boxer, Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali was previously known as Cassius Clay Jr. and was given the name Muhammad Ali by Elijah Muhammad.
It was W Fard who instructed Elijah to eliminate the use of slave names and to adopt new ones.
Malcolm X too was given a new name called Maleek Shabbaz and it was the one he used on his passport.
Ali began attending the Nation of Islam meetings in 1964.
This was shortly after he won his first heavyweight title at the age of 22. Muhammad Ali was a dedicated Black Muslim.
His religious orientation caused conflict between himself and his family, but he would not relent from following his beliefs.
His father was a Methodist.
He made paintings of white Jesus for some churches and he loved his slave name of Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr.
Ali was also in dispute with his first wife Sonji Roi, who refused to change her lifestyle to match the standards that were set by her husband’s religion.
She, like many girls of modern times, loved dressing in clothes that showed too much cleavage and adornment.
Ali divorced Sonji.
The next woman he married was a Muslim formerly known as Belinda Boyd, but became Khalilah Ali.
Muhammad had most of his children with Khalilah.
Ali was also in dispute with the USA government when he refused to be called up in the American War against Vietnam.
Like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali had a lot of media attention.
When asked to comment on why he refused to fight for his country, he said, “No Vietcong (Vietnamese army) has ever called me nigger!”
He also said that white people were his enemy not Vietnam, because it is the whites who oppose him and his race when they want freedom, equality and justice.
Ali was found guilty and was stripped of his heavyweight title, boxing licence and passport.
Despite this, he did not change his stance and his devotion earned him respect among the Muslims and the blacks in general.
Ali’s ideas against the war became popular when the war in Vietnam turned sour against the Americans.
The Americans took so many casualties and spent so much money and resources on the war in Vietnam that the American population rebelled against the war and the USA was forced to accept defeat.
Elijah Muhammad’s son used to be close to Ali before Ali was banned from boxing, but when Ali went through the difficult period, he kept his distance and the Nation of Islam, in general, did virtually nothing to support him. Ali and Khalilah were not impressed.
Relations between Ali and Elijah Muhammad deteriorated resulting in Ali being suspended by Elijah Muhammad from attending church and associating with people of the Nation of Islam.
This was after he made a comment on a TV show, revealing his unfavourable financial situation and also his desire to fight again.
Of this Ali said, “The Nation can suspend me, but they can’t stop me from being a Muslim, just like the USA can suspend me, but they can’t stop me from being the champ.”
Ali would later recover and gain his world heavyweight championship after he got acquitted and his boxing licence was reinstated.
Evidently the latter years of the Nation of Islam were characterised by internal struggles.
Malcolm X had become good friends with Muhammad Ali and would regularly attend Ali’s fights.
This was until Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam got into a dispute that was very much publicised by the media.
The dispute began when Elijah Muhammad fathered children by several young women.
Malcolm X was heart-broken and when he raised the alarm, he was deemed disloyal by Elijah’s followers.
Some of the Muslims who had ranks in the Nation of Islam were envious of Malcolm X’s media attention and found an opportunity to demonise him when he spoke against Elijah’s extra-marital relationships.
Furthermore, when USA President John F Kennedy was assassinated, Malcolm X made a public comment saying; “The death of the President of America is like chickens coming back to roost.”
By this he meant that since America was sponsoring a climate of hate through warfare, it is only consequential that they too become a victim of hate.
Elijah Muhammad in turn distanced himself and his organisation from Malcolm X. He said people liked John F Kennedy and Malcolm’s sentiments were his own, not the Nation’s.
He then announced a 90-day ban on Malcolm X that restricted him from teaching and attending the Nation’s meetings.
After realising that his ban was not being lifted, Malcolm X decided to defect from the Nation of Islam and pursue his goal of black liberation on his own.
Malcolm X had been demonised by his former associates so much that close friends like Muhammad Ali withdrew from interacting with him.
These internal disputes enabled the USA secret agents to infiltrate the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s organisation fairly easily.
If anything happened to Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam would be the one to blame.
Malcolm X and his family began to experience a lot of security breaches from unidentified assailants in the form of death threats, phone calls, the bombing of their house and eventually the assassination of Malcolm X.
Shortly before Malcolm X’s death, he spoke saying he no longer thought that it was the Nation of Islam that was behind the bombing of his house on top of other things, but was convinced it was the CIA.
A few days after saying this, Malcolm X was shot to death.
Although Elijah Muhammad eventually passed away in 1975, the Nation of Islam continues to thrive.
The contributions of all the great teachers who passed through this organisation have made up a great part of African American culture, as did the Garvey movement.


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