City of Brass

City of Brass


Michael Jackson and the Nation of Islam

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As a kind of corollary to the drama over Michael Jackson’s alleged conversion to Islam, there have long been rumors that Jacko was somehow affiliated with the Nation of Islam, led by controversial firebrand Louis Farrakhan. The NOI connection was just raised again after Jackson’s death because apparently some of his security detail and private entourage were NOI members or had vague, unspecified “ties” to Farrakhan. As a bonus, Jackson’s brother Jermaine, who converted to Islam in 1989, invoked Allah at the family press conference, causing a minor media stir. However, there’s quite a big difference between Jackson being exploited or influenced by people who are NOI members, and being exploited or influenced by the NOI as an organization itself.

This is old news, really – back in December 2003, during the controversy over the child molestation charges against Jackson, his chief spokesman had resigned over “strategic differences” with Jackson’s other advisers. According to various sources at the time, these other advisers included Leonard Muhammad, Farrakhan’s son-in-law. A few months later in spring 2004, Jackson abruptly cleaned house by firing his lead attorneys, and also got rid of Leonard who by then was a “business manager” for Jackson’s affairs. This was all orchestrated by his brother Randy, who apparently had big ideas for Jackson’s future. The picture overall is a mess, but it boils down to Jackson being passed from one group of exploitative manipulators to another, all eager to leverage his fame and money for themselves. The bottom line here is that the Nation of Islam as a whole was never involved in any of these machinations, only individuals who used whatever access to Jackson they had.

The NOI is a juicy target for conspiracy theorists and of course the paranoid rants of the Islamophobia industry harpies. After all, they are militant African Americans AND muslims both – sort of a racisal and prejudicial douuble-whammy. But there’s absolutely nothing to support the accusation that the NOI or even Farrakhan himself had interfered with Jackson’s life, or had a role in his death. The knee-jerk hysteria about the NOI and Jackson was perfectly punctured by a column by Roland Martin for Black America Today magazine back then, in Dec 2003:

Why is this an issue? Because it’s an effort to use the racially divisive history of an organization for the spin of all those involved in this sordid game.

This linkage has been seen before.

A few years ago, several members of Congress sent angry letters to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, demanding that they revoke security contracts from firms run by the NOI. It seems that many public housing complexes in Washington, D.C. and Chicago saw crime drop because of

the involvement of these security companies, but that didn’t matter to the members of Congress. All they were concerned with was not awarding “taxpayer” dollars to an organization they called a hate group.

The problem with all of this is that the Nation didn’t own any of these security firms. Members of the Nation – a religious group – owned the security firms. Does that mean that since I am a member of a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, if I owned a security firm and was hired to police public housing units or Jackson’s Neverland ranch, the Southern Baptists are now “brainwashing” Jackson and taking over his life?

Anyone who has followed American politics and the thorny issue of race over the last 20 years could easily conclude that Farrakhan is a

polarizing figure. He has been called by white America a Jew hater and a man who considers whites to be devils. In black America, some consider him a wretched figure, while many others see him as being one black man who is unwilling to bow down the white racial supremacy. Like it or not, the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and any black member of Congress could not have pulled off the Million Man March in 1995.

But in this case, I just refuse to take the bait. This guilt by association is often used to smear individuals and drive public perception on an issue. Everyone involved knows full well that the mere mention of Jackson aligning himself with Farrakhan will force Americans to take sides.

If Jackson has hired individuals who belong to the Nation of Islam to handle some of his affairs, he has every right to do so. But please, let’s get the facts straight before we begin another race war like those that emanated from the O.J. Simpson case. God knows we don’t have to re-live that nightmare again.

Those words ring just as true today. In fact more so, because the paranoia about muslims in particular, and the double standard that muslim organizations are uniquely culpable for all actions of their private individual members, has become so pervasive.

It should be noted that Michael Jackson discussed his childhood, faith, and the freedom of the Sabbath, in an essay at Beliefnet in 2000.



  • Your Name

    I can’t for the life of me , understand why people seen to dis-like even hate the NOI. When all they have ever tried to do is set and example of what can be done when people , any people come together for a righteous cause. I have not seen one person in this world other than members and ex- members of the NOI stand up for the rights of other blacks, hispanic, and poor whites in America. But at the same time risk death to make a point . But you have some coward with and ink pen sitting at his cozy desk , trying to beat up the people or person that will give up his life for change . There is not one person in this country other than NOI that have risk everything to bring about change in this country . From the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad to Farrakhan. But all we can do is sit back and criticize what they are doing and have done. If you can name me one group that has done and is doing what they do without weapons I will shutup and say no more .
    Die in your rage and comfort , for Allah knows who is setting up freedom, justice , and equality .
    Peace

  • Grant

    To the anonymous commenter of 7/2/09: Are you honestly saying you have never seen even ONE PERSON outside the NOI stand up for the rights of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites? Not Dr. King? Not Andrew Young? Not James Lawson? Not even Aziz Poonawalla, the author of this blog you’re commenting on? Not the National Organization of Women, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the American Civil Liberties Union?
    There certainly are valid reasons to “dis-like” the NOI, but I’m fairly certain you would not be ready or willing to consider them… So, since I was born in Kansas, I will simply wish you peace upon your journey to find that wheel in the sky that keeps on turning….

  • Grant

    To the anonymous commenter of 7/2/09: Are you honestly saying you have never seen even ONE PERSON outside the NOI stand up for the rights of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites? Not Dr. King? Not Andrew Young? Not James Lawson? Not even Aziz Poonawalla, the author of this blog you’re commenting on? Not the National Organization of Women, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the American Civil Liberties Union?
    There certainly are valid reasons to “dis-like” the NOI, but I’m fairly certain you would not be ready or willing to consider them… So, since I was born in Kansas, I will simply wish you peace upon your journey to find that wheel in the sky that keeps on turning….

  • Moe

    First of all if Michael did convert to Islam it is clearly stated that he read many books which his brother Jermaine had given him. Jermaine follows Islam not NOI… He follows the traditional path of Islam. What NOI stands for is not even pure Islam. So whoever wrote this article is spreading rumors. If Michael did convert to Islam than he is on the traditional path not some BLACK ACTIVIST group that believed in divisions… which was the reason why Mohammad Ali and Malik Shabaaz aka Malcolm X left NOI. NOI do not represent the majority black people in America, nor do they represent their interest. Maybe they have changed compare to their ideologies before but I can’t accept someone who thinks he was in flying ships and had chit chats with the Prophets of the past yet he goes to Chicago for pilgrimage. Sounds like Mormon’s with their new prophet.

  • Moe

    Don’t forget Malcolm X also stood up for his people but in the end he also envisioned this unity between white, black, and other races. Based on the trials and tribulations that Malcolm had to go through it seem to me that Malcolm really did not like the kind of message NOI were spreading at his time. As Malcolm said the true form of Islam is the Islam he saw in Mecca where Black and White were equal among each other.
    My other question is this… Why do I always hear “Black Community” from NOI??? I feel that we are still racist in these times. I don’t hear white man in some organization or event called “White Community”.
    Not to stretch the topic too far. Prophet Muhammad SAW (PBUH) (this doesn’t apply to you grant I’m sure you have your own faith but as far as faiths go with NOI this is what I have to say) said that there will be no other prophets after him. He is the last prophet and that Jesus will return to this world and bring peace and harmony and than the world will reach an end. As far as Nation of Islam goes it is something created to bring blacks together and create this leadership that have other ill agendas and intentions.
    I’m sorry friend but NOI believes in this:
    On March 11, 1984 Farrakhan said: “Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t great for me as a Black man but he was a great German and he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of all of Europe and America after the First World War.” A decade later, Farrakhan would reiterate the claim that Hitler was a “great man”.
    On June 24, 1984, he said: “Now, that nation of Israel never has had any peace in forty years and she will never have any peace because there can never be any peace structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion under His holy and righteous name.”
    ^^^ And other than Iran’s President… 99% of the Muslim population that follow the traditional path of Islam do not admire Hitler and what they did to the Jews.
    Have a great time.

  • Your Name

    Minister Farrakhan is the leader of the NOI and the world must recognize this fact. He is indorsed by the Muhammad Family and most of the civilized black comminities of this nation. I am the Original Allah who came fist in the person of M.D. Fard, returned in the person of Clarence 13X and presently resides in me. I say to Royall, the New Allah, Lance Shabazz and all other critics of Farrakhan,”leave my minister alone”.

  • Your Name

    This is a very sad read. Firstly Moe I think I remember the Quote being that Hitler was a great man , but wickedly great. Funny you would leave that out. Second, is there no racism in this socalled “PURE” LOL Islam.My friend there is no such animal.Visit the Mid East and see for yourself. Lastly keep believing in your fairytales your jesus returning to life after death, moses parting a sea with a stick,muhammah with birds dropping fireballs on the opposing army. Talk about comic relief.

  • Your Name

    Minister Louis Farrakhan Speak Truth
    Long Live the Nation Of Islam..!!

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