What is the Nation of Islam?

The Nation of Islam (NoI) was founded in 1930 as a peculiar fusion of Islam and a conservative variant of black nationalism.

The NoI considered whites to be devils and that the answer to American racism was the promotion of black business, racial separation and the creation of a black state.

Black historian Manning Marable describes how the NoI came to be “re-founded" by Louis Farrakhan in 1981:

“[In the 1970s] Most black radicals, influenced heavily by Malcolm X's public separation from and feud with the Nation in 1964-65, still viewed the organisation with a great deal of scepticism.

“… [Elijah] Muhammad [NoI leader] attempted to establish closer links with the US government and other foreign interests in an effort to resolve his group's ongoing political and economic troubles. By making peace with Chicago's political boss, Richard Daley, the Nation was able to eliminate most of the police surveillance and harassment against the sect.

“Imitating the FBI, Nation of Islam members in Philadelphia destroyed that city's Black Panther Party headquarters in retaliation for the group's public advocacy of Malcolm X's ideas.

“In 1972, Muhammad negotiated a $3 million interest-free loan from [Libyan dictator] Colonel Muamar Kadafi which was used to expand Black Muslim enterprises. Despite these gains, the Nation of Islam was still plagued by internal dissension.

“One of the Nation's most dynamic and powerful ministers, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis (Ernest McGhee) denounced the Nation as a corruption of the true faith, Sunni Islam, in 1972. Khaalis declared that Muhammad was ‘a lying deceiver' and stated that their leader ‘who inspired former dope addicts and prostitutes to monklike lives of sacrifice, discipline and hard work, was instead stealing his followers' money and leading them to hell'. For devout defenders of Muhammad, Khaalis' challenge could not remain unanswered. On 18 January 1973, at least five armed gunmen, all members of the Nation of Islam, entered Khaalis' Washington, DC, home and butchered five members of his family.

"With Muhammad's death in 1975, the leadership of the Nation of Islam passed to one of his sons, Wallace. Quickly and efficiently, Wallace Muhammad ‘Malcolmised' the [sect … a] mixture of racial mythology and religious dogma promulgated by Elijah Muhammad was abandoned in favour of the orthodox teachings of Islam; whites were permitted to attend services and in some instances even joined the group…

“Yet these dramatic changes did not occur without more dissension. Louis Farrakhan, perhaps the most charismatic minister in the Nation after the departure of Malcolm X, had quietly left the Nation by 1978. In February 1981, Farrakhan announced the creation of the ‘old’ NoI under his direction, following the tenets of Elijah Muhammad. Several thousand blacks soon flocked to Farrakhan’s group." (Race Reform and Rebellion, p 177-8)

The following Farrakhan has built up since 1978 is particularly suprising because of the part he played in the NoI’s feud with Malcolm X. In December 1964, writing as Louis X, Farrakhan wrote, “Malcolm shall not escape… Malcolm is worthy of death." Malcolm was shot down two months later in February 1965.

In 1994, Malcolm’s widow, Betty Shabazz, was asked on WNBC-TV if she thought Farrakhan had anything to do with her husband’s killing. She answered: "Of course. Yes… Nobody kept it a secret. It was a badge of honour. Everybody talked about it. Yes."

Moreover, Farrakhan’s NoI has continued Elijah Muhammad's tradition of links with the fascist right — believing that the Nazis, who also want racial separation, have something in common with the NoI.

In June 1961 a delegation of American Nazi Party members attended the NoI’s convention in Washington DC. In 1962 Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, dressed in full Nazi regalia, declared to the NoI Chicago convention: “Elijah Muhammad is to the so-called Negro what Adolf Hitler was to the German people… Heil Hitler!"

Malcolm X, who had been ordered to represent the NoI at a meeting with the fascists in 1961, later wrote to Rockwell, “This is to warn you that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad's separatist Black Muslim movement". (Malcolm Speaks, 1965). In 1964 Malcolm had offered to send people to the Deep South to “give the Ku Klux Klan a taste of their own medicine".

But in 1985 Farrakhan repeated Elijah Muhammad's mistakes by allowing Californian Klan leader Tom Metzger to attend an NoI rally in Los Angeles. The NoI accepted a $100 donation from this racist scumbag. Farrakhan has also declared that “Hitler was a very great man" (at a rally for Jesse Jackson, 1984).

The organisation Louis Farrakhan now leads has tacked towards the Democratic mainstream during the 1990s. It remains right-wing, anti-white and anti-Korean (some Korean people run shops in black areas in US cities) .

Farrakhan is anti-abortion, anti-gay and wants to see schools separated by sex. Some of the NoI’s meetings and rallies are closed to women.

The NoI is also profoundly anti-semitic. In the past it has distributed the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian Tsarist police forgery which claims to show that a Jewish conspiracy exists to control the world. The NoI has its own “Protocols" — The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews claims that: Jews ran the African slave trade; Jews were the major owners of slaves in the US; Jews raped black women; that during Reconstruction, Jews preyed on freed black slaves. Like many anti-semitic texts the NoI claim it is based on the works of “respected Jewish authorities".

In fact the Secret Relationship is a lying mess in which facts are misrepresented and notorious anti-semites — such as Dostoyevsky — are quoted to prove a point. (In fact Jews were a very small minority of whites in the Deep South and owned, as a proportion, less slaves than other groups of whites.)

Farrakhan believes the Jews control the media and that Judaism is a “dirty religion”.

Farrakhan’s deputy, Khallid Muhammad, called Jews “bloodsuckers of the black nation".

Speaking in February 1994, Khallid Muhammad said: “God will kill my enemy… that old no-good Jew, that old impostor Jew, that old hooknose, bagel-eating, lox-eating, Johnny-come-lately perpetrating a fraud, just crawled out of the caves and hills of Europe, so-called damn Jew… I will never apologise to this bastard — never."

The NoI and Louis Farrakhan are bad news.