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A common perspective holds that America is a haven of non-Islam, of kafirdom and cultural infidelity, and that while Europe is destined to become ever more Middle Eastern and North African in the future, America shall long remain a shining city on a hill; proudly old-fashioned in its Christian, patriotic Anglo-Saxonism.
This is not entirely inaccurate. Compared to Western Europe, America has certainly retained an enviable cultural-religious clarity. It is still uncontroversial to postulate that America is a ‘Judeo-Christian’ country, either in the media or from the political podium. The only protest aroused by such a claim tends to be from spectacle wearing atheists, and who on Earth could find them intimidating? By contrast, if one made the same claim about Europe, the backlash would be of an immeasurably more serious kind. People would die. Windows would be smashed. Heads might possibly be removed. America is simply more confident and self-assured than Europe – more willing to stand its ground and preserve its original identity.
But this is not to say that America doesn’t have a problem with Islam. On the contrary, the nation may have more of a problem with Islam than Europe, depending entirely on how ‘Islam’ is defined.
African-American Muslims are today the most powerful Muslim community in the United States and in the West more broadly. Unlike the Arab and Persian Muslim communities, African-American believers are socially and culturally integrated, acceptable, part of the national fabric. Many African-American icons are or were Muslims: from Malcolm X (AKA el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), to the late Cassius Clay (AKA Muhammad Ali), to Shahrazad Ali, to Louis Farrakhan. These figures are not like marginalised Arab-American activists or obscure Pakistani-American Imams. They are nationally recognised faces, with enduring influence on the mainstream media and the mainstream political conversation.
They are also protected against the kind of contempt one might safely direct against Arabs and Pakistanis by the firewall of political correctness. You cannot speak as liberally about Black people as you can against Middle-Easterners. Given the horrors of the African-American past, Black leaders are typically treated gently and apologetically by White political analysts. Their comments, however ridiculous, are rarely dismissed, but debated and scrutinised. Therein lies political power.
Of all the African-American Muslim movements in operation today, none is more famous, or infamous, than the so-called ‘Nation of Islam’. Conceived in Detroit in 1930, the Nation of Islam (or NOI) now commands the allegiance of up to 50,000 American citizens; a membership that has in the past included such figures as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.
The NOI ‘brand’ is recognised across the United States. Few people have never heard of the organisation. And this notoriety is well earned. NOI members are routinely condemned for their homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-White demonstrations, some of which have proven very difficult and expensive to police. NOI chapters on university campuses are also noted for their combativeness and hostility to rival groups and demographics, including more moderate or secular African-American fraternities.
So what do they want? It’s difficult to say. The NOI website currently features a list of ten ‘demands’, entitled ‘The Muslim Program’. It functions as a kind of manifesto, and has been little changed for several years. I won’t paste the entire thing, since many of the demands are vacuous and jingoistic. But here are three of the most interesting:
“3. We want equality of opportunity. We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society.
4. We want our people in America whose parents or grandparents were descendants from slaves, to be allowed to establish a separate state or territory of their own – either on this continent or elsewhere. We believe that our former slave masters are obligated to provide such land and that the area must be fertile and minerally rich. We believe that our former slave masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next 20 to 25 years–until we are able to produce and supply our own needs…..
10. We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited. We want the religion of Islam taught without hindrance or suppression.” – Source: https://www.noi.org/muslim-program/
Eagle-eyed readers will notice at once that all three of these demands are in contradiction with each other. How can there be equality of opportunity (presumably they mean between different races) in a Black-only state? Why also would race-mixing need to prohibited in that state? And so on…
But while one can nit-pick this manifesto for hours on end, that is not the point of this article. What we are trying to scrutinise is the nature of Black Islam and what its followers are aiming to achieve in the United States of America. Judging by the text quoted (as well as other texts available on the Nation of Islam website), Black Islam appears to be a movement dedicated to racial separatism; that is, to the permanent separation of Whites and Blacks, ostensibly for the benefit of both.
Whether you find this a good suggestion or not is not the issue to focus on; rather, we should ask: What has this to do with the Islamic religion authored by the Arabs in the 7th century? Indeed, is this Islam at all? Does the Nation of Islam actually care about Islam, or are they merely using it as a façade, as a cosmetic and/or political cover?
Few questions are more important for the future of America. Given how many African-American ‘Muslims’ there are in the country, and given how mainstream some of them have become in the Black community, the answers to these questions may reveal whether Islam, in the truest sense of the word, has any future in America at all.
It is revealing (and comforting) to note that Black Islam has yet to be formally recognised by any conventional Islamic authority, either in America or around the world. The Sunni and Shia religious establishments have only limited ties with the NOI. Even al-Qaeda, an organisation usually welcoming to Western supporters, has greeted Black Islam with a mistrustfully slow handclap.
We hardly need wonder why this is the case. The Nation of Islam has a very, very liberal attitude to Islamic dogma. Not only do NOI clerics preach the infallibility of the Qur’an; they also provide a generous heap of new-age, Afrocentric Apocrypha to go with it. In NOI theology, for example, White people (understood as those of pure Northern – but not Southern – European descent) are a breed of scoundrels and devils, inferior to the pure and ancient Black African race (the race, allegedly, of the Egyptians, Moors, Ancient Arabs, Hebrews, Romans and Greeks). NOI theorists explain White misbehaviour as being congenital to – and ineradicable from – White psychology. Slavery was not, then, a terrible aberration by an otherwise civilised people, but merely the natural expression of White human nature, of White evil.
As much as they might find this kind of analysis appealing, given the contemporary antagonism between East and West, no orthodox Muslim would recognise these ideas as Islamic. They are not based in the Qur’an, and nor do they have any root in the sayings or teachings of the Prophet. For those reasons, Orthodox Muslims will reject a great portion of Black Islamic thought outright. Then there are the UFOs to consider…
The NOI has a lot to say about spacecraft, especially a peculiar UFO called the ‘Mother Wheel’. Minister Farrakhan is quoted on Wikipedia as having said the following: “That Mother Wheel is a dreadful-looking thing. White folks are making movies now to make these planes look like fiction, but it is based on something real. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad (Note: NOI leader from 1934-75) said that the Mother Plane is so powerful that with sound reverberating in the atmosphere, just with a sound, she can crumble buildings.”
I think that’s probably enough to prove the point. These frankly daffy beliefs are not compatible with any major school or tradition of Islam. On the matter of theology, Black Islam is out on its own.
What about politics? What about the aims of Islamism? Well, happily enough, I have yet to hear of a single case where a Black Muslim (of the NOI style) has travelled to join either al-Qaeda or ISIS, or has carried out, or been apprehended in the process of carrying out, a major terrorist attack. This is most probably because there is a major disconnect between the goals of the NOI Muslims and those of the conventional Islamists. Radical Islamists of the conventional style wish to create a global, multiracial caliphate under the rule of Sharia law. NOI Muslims, by contrast, wish only to create a Black homeland in America or in Africa where they can be free from non-Black oppression. Would NOI Muslims be happy living in an Arab or Pakistani-controlled caliphate? No, of course not. The NOI only exists because Black Americans became tired of being treated as secondary human beings. In a caliphate, the White devils would quickly be replaced in NOI grudge-theology by Arab devils.
For these and various other reasons, I find it quite unlikely that Black Islam will ever threaten American culture in the same way that real Islam threatens Europe. Black Islam is just too silly, too fake, and too cobbled-together to ever mount an effective opposition to modern civilization.