'I've Seen the Sniper's Kind Before'
The Nation of Islam has a culture of violence embedded in it. But it's far more than that.
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The most frightening case I knew about at that time was the arrest of several members of the San Francisco Mosque who were all former inmates. They were converted in prison, some of them served together at the same time, and they were all recruited to work for a Nation member who operated a moving and storage business. They were charged with systematically snatching white people off the streets and brutally murdering them in 1972. They were San Francisco's notorious "Zebra" killers. Fortunately for me that summer, I was taken away to Chicago, where I worked under Mr. Muhammad's direct supervision--eventually as editor-in-chief ofMuhammad Speaks
And I'm not particularly disappointed that people who have long ago vilified Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam as the black equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan are now having a field day draping this suspect in the trappings of the Black Muslim movement. Black people in America--all people in America--are better off today because of the presence of the Nation of Islam in our midst, no matter how many "bad apples" turn up in the bushel. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, always stood his ground, even in the face of withering condemnations from white America. His message was never corrupted, and he never forsook those who sincerely embraced his teaching. In the face of hostile criticism, he often told the story of the donkey that fell into a ditch. He said that every person who came by and saw the donkey in the ditch threw a stone at him. Pretty soon the passersby had thrown so many stones that the ditch filled up and the donkey walked out of the ditch without any further assistance. "Every knock is a boost," Mr. Muhammad would explain.
Louis Farrakhan lives according to that credo. And while there are few references to him in academic literature or elsewhere that do not include the word "racist" alongside his name, I do not believe he is a race-hater or anti-semite.
There is a superior spiritual dimension to the Islamic message taught by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, which separates his true followers from all miscreants, deviants, and criminals, whether or not they profess to be Muslims. No matter how appealing the sociological and political effects Mr. Muhammad's message may have appeared to those not in the Nation, his message was textbook religious reform: Believe and accept the message, repent from your wicked ways taught by the slave master, and you will find salvation in prayer toward Mecca, in giving charity, in fasting, in the pilgrimage. Mr. Muhammad emphasized obedience and faith in Allah (God) above all else. Period. That is why his followers have always been unarmed since he first taught the message in Detroit in 1931.