By Adi Chowdhury
“These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength. … It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s the wicked Jews, false Jews, that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic!”
— Louis Farrakhan, Head of the Nation of Islam
In spite of being founded for honorable purposes–“to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans in the United States and all of humanity”, as stated–the accomplishments and attributes of the Nation of Islam have fallen starkly short of such values, instead amassing a far less attractive persona through history. Rightfully labeled as furthering black supremacy and antisemitism, as well as good ol’ pseudoscience, the Nation of Islam (NoI) has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Let’s explore the inner workings and teachings of the NoI, as well why it has accrued notoriety.
Origins and Current State: A Brief Overview
The NoI was established in the 193os by Wallace Fard Muhammad, also known as W. D. Fard Muhammad. Their purpose was, as Nation of Islam states, to “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.”
In a time conspicuous for its blatant and scathing racism, such an establishment was set to bolster the morale of the black population of America, providing solace and inspiration, albeit of a religious nature. The NoI garnered fame through its attraction of dynamic and renowned figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. (Note: Malcolm X later exited the Nation, claiming he was pressured out of it. On the other hand, Ali later converted to Sunni Islam and then Sufism.)
As of 2016, the Nation is headed by Louis Farrakhan, who was appointed by the renowned Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan himself is entangled in a web of allegations and criticism, wrapped up–like his organization–in controversy regarding antisemitism, anti-white racism, and homophobia. More on that later.
You can find the Nation of Islam’s own website here.
From the Anti-Defamation League:
“The Nation of Islam (NOI), the oldest Black nationalist organization in the U.S., has maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and racism since its founding in the 1930s.
Under the guidance of Louis Farrakhan, who has espoused anti-Semitism and racism for over 30 years as NOI leader, the organization has used its programs, institutions, and media to disseminate its message of hate.
While Farrakhan often speaks about serious issues affecting the African-American community, including racism, police brutality, and economic disparities, he often places blame for these societal problems on Jews.
Here’s a degree on the measuring stick on how antisemitic this organization is: they have their own book about it. (In fact, two volumes of it.) The Nation of Islam penned and published The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews in 1991, presenting a loosely composed account of the contributions of Jews to the Atlantic Slave Trade as well as the promulgation of anti-black racism. According to leader Farrakhan, the book should be taught in schools across the United States.
In reality, the Jews’ role in the slave trade has been described as “minimal.” The book itself has been blasted as “an anti-Jewish conspiracy” and “failing to provide objective accounts of the role of Jews in the Slave Trade.” In response to the book, the American Historical Association maintained that “any statement alleging that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic slave trade” was baseless.
An amusing comparison was put forth by Henry Louis Gates Jr., when he described the book as “the Bible of new anti-Semitism.” He went on to deem the book guilty of “massively misinterpreting the historical record, largely through a process of cunningly selective quotations of often reputable sources.”
Farrakhan has accrued notoriety for his distaste of Jews, even blaming them for 9/11 and promulgating myths of “Satanic Jews in control of everything and everybody.” Such rhetoric of his was deemed “conspiratorial”, not to mention “hateful” and reflective of an underlying disregard for Jews. A phrase used by Farrakhan to refer to Jews is “Synagogue of Satan”, which he alleged has ““mastered civilization now, but they’ve mastered it in evil, using its control of Hollywood and the media to put you before the world in this disgraceful matter.” In an online session, Farrakhan stated “The Jewish media has normalized sexual degeneracy, profanity, and all kinds of sin.” 2010 marked Farrakhan sending letters to prominent Jewish leaders and exhorting them to recognize the evil in their ways. The letter ended with a threat to “ruin and destroy your power and influence here and throughout the world” if his commands were not realized.
Sometimes Farrakhan’s vehement words were downright disturbing, such as this excerpt from his 20016 Savior’s Day Speech:
“And the Christian right, with your blindness to that wicked state of Israel … can that be the holy land, and you have gay parades, and want to permit to have a gay parade in Jerusalem when no prophet ever sanctioned that behavior. How can that be the Israel, how can that be Jerusalem with secular people running the holy land when it should be the holy people running the holy land. That land is gonna be cleansed with blood!”
An NoI minister Khalid Abdul Muhammed has voiced his conviction that Jews deserved to be exterminated by the Germans. In a 2004 speech in Baltimore, he referred to Jews as bloodsuckers:
“I called them Jews bloodsuckers. I’m not going to change that. Our lessons talk about the bloodsuckers of the poor in the Supreme Wisdom of the Nation of Islam. It’s that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating, Johnny-come-lately perpetrating a fraud, just crawled out of the caves and hills of Europe, so-called damn Jew. . . and I feel everything I’m saying up here is kosher.”
Black Supremacy & Creation Myth
Borne out of an age in America nefarious for systematic racism and hate, it’s expected for many to have held negative attitudes towards white Americans. But the NoI’s fervent anti-white vitriol is a different matter altogether.
The NoI has impugned whites as “”potential humans … [who] haven’t evolved yet” as well as pejoratives such as “vicious beasts” and “the skunks of the planet.” The Nation of Islam has given voice to its support for black separatism, making clear its opposition to the integration of black Americans as well as interracial marriage. To deepen the bizarre nature of their beliefs, the NoI maintains that blacks are the “original race” and all other ethnicities descended from them, and that blacks are the genetically dominant race.
The NoI has fabricated their own creation myth. Here’s how it’s narrated by Elijah Muhammad:
The Blackman is the original man. From him came all brown, yellow, red, and white people. By using a special method of birth control law, the Blackman was able to produce the white race. This method of birth control was developed by a Black scientist known as Yakub, who envisioned making and teaching a nation of people who would be diametrically opposed to the Original People. A Race of people who would one day rule the original people and the earth for a period of 6,000 years. Yakub promised his followers that he would graft a nation from his own people, and he would teach them how to rule his people, through a system of tricks and lies whereby they use deceit to divide and conquer, and break the unity of the darker people, put one brother against another, and then act as mediators and rule both sides.
Seem weird and racist? It should.
Apart from this mangled and downright laughable creation myth, the NoI also espouses a range of baseless and ludicrous views, such as that Elijah Muhamad is still alive and living on a spaceship.
All in all, in stark contrast to its original message of promulgating peace, solace, and spiritual enrichment, the Nation of Islam has rightfully amassed notoriety for its distorted, convoluted teachings and promotion of cultural and racial discrepancy–exactly what furthers racial tension, exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. railed against. Through its myriad misdeeds, absurd myths, and blatant prejudices, the NoI has become a coveted practitioner of antisemitism, racial inequality, and pseudoscience.
The renowned Malcolm X had a stark shift in worldview after his Hajj, his pilgrimage to Mecca. During this time, he witnessed fellow pilgrims of all races, shaking his previously held notion of black superiority. Read his beautifully articulated account here:
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.
You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it.
I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
We are truly all the same-brothers.”