Our Feature topic for the September issue is the Nation Of Islam.
Depending on your point of view, ‘The Nation’ is either a Polarizing or Unifying force. The truth about ‘The Nation’ probably lies somewhere in-between, but no-one can deny ‘The Nation’s’ Historical impact as well as the charisma of the followers it has attracted from Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and even the much vilified Louis Farrakhan himself…. We’ll be spending some time unraveling the mystery of ‘The Nation’.
The NOI was founded on July 4, 1930, by Wallace Fard Muhammad, a Persian Immigrant who worked as a street vendor in Detroit. He proclaimed himself to be the leader of the Nation of Islam and proselytizing among his customers according to his Islamic beliefs.
His preaching of freedom, justice and equality for people of African descent rapidly gained him followers, and within three years Fard developed a cohesive organization, renting a Detroit meeting hall as the NOI’S first Temple.
One of his earliest disciples was Elijah Poole, who later changed his name to Elijah Muhammad. Eventually, he would come to succeed Fard, take The Nation to unseen heights by bringing Malclom X into the NOI, and ultimately die as a suspect in his Assassination.
The Elijah Muhammad Era
When Fard left the United States in 1934, Muhammad seized control over the organization, running it with absolute authority. By the early 1950s, the NOI had several thousand members and Temples in Detroit, Chicago (Illinois), Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Washington, D.C. and other major cities.
In 1942, during World War II, Elijah Muhammad was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act and jailed. Many other Nation of Islam members were similarly charged, as NOI opposed serving in the United States military. Upon his release in 1946, Elijah Muhammad slowly built up the membership of his movement through recruitment in the postwar decades.
By the 1950s, the NOI was a force to be reckoned with.
NOI Theology, Race & Identity Politics: An Unorthodox Islam
The Nation of Islam states, “teach the downtrodden and defenseless Black people a thorough Knowledge of God and of themselves, and to put them on the road to Self-Independence with a superior culture and higher civilization than they had previously experienced”.
Fard’s doctrine revolved around the claim that Islam was the true religion for blacks, and Christianity only the faith of the “white devils” who were inferior to blacks. His program called for the establishment of a separate nation for black Americans and the adoption of a religion based on the worship of Allah and on the belief that blacks were his chosen people.
The NOI’s departure from Orthodox Islam would ultimately prove to be a source of conflict and division within the NOI.
The NOI’s Theology can be understood as a form of Racial Islam, also described as ‘African American Islam’ whose existence was made possible by the cognitive dissonance suffered by displaced Ethnic African Slaves. Slavery as practiced in the United States erased many Pre-existing African Ethnicities and Religious identities to be replaced by a single racial identity, “the Negro.”
In the minds of both Enslaved Africans, and American Slave-Masters, Islam could claim a great, non-European civilization, a straightforward theology at least compared with Christianity, a conservative social ethic, and a retributive system of justice from the Qurʾan,
For these reasons, the NOI projected confidence, coherence and organisation, provoking the fear of Racist white Americans…..Fears which the NOI did nothing to placate with its own vitriolic ‘Anti-white’ message, which at times bordered on Propaganda because it was as much Rhetoric as it was Social critique.
The fear of the sort of ‘Black Militancy’ symbolised by the NOI is on display on the vintage 1959 TV Documentary, ‘The Hate That Hate Produced’, a television documentary about Black Nationalism in 1950s America, focusing on the Nation of Islam.
We’ve featured this as the documentary of the week, and it can be viewed straight off the Home Page…Too classic to pass on….We’ve also included a link to an Oxford University Research article on the nature and Historical source of the NOI’s Theology of ‘African American’ Islam.
Speaking of videos, after watching the vid for the Joey Bada$$ track ‘500 Benz’, we figured it’d be a good idea to share music videos from different genres on the Home Page from time to time, in addition to the documentary of the week. So expect many different Artists from lots of different eras to pop up as the week’s featured Music video……We’ll keep sharing Majestic Music tracks via the Audio Player.
In the meantime, check out smooth Militant Joey BadA$$’ ‘500 Benz’ video, a great reminder of Tupac’s legacy and influence…..Joey’s track oozes swagg, maturity, melody and Mic skillz……….#TupacBack.
Up next, is our Interview of Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke also known as South Africa’s ‘Dagga Couple’, as they let us in on their struggle to decriminalise Marijuana in the Courts after they were charged with dealing, following their arrest and search by the Police in the privacy of their home.
Links & Credits
NOI Origins: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/nation-islam-1930
NOI Theology & Politics: http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-9