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The Screwy World Of Louie Farrakhan

by Patrick Inniss

The title of this column is "ChristianWatch," so you may think that the topic of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is out of bounds. But addressing the Farrakhan phenomenon doesn't require that much of a stretch from Christianity. Most of Farrakhan's supporters seem to be Christians, and in some respects Farrakhan is a Christian. He includes many references to Christ in his lectures and writings, and reportedly claims to accept Jesus as the Messiah. This would seem not to make sense in the context of Islamic theology, but is a perfect fit for Minister Farrakhan's home-brewed pop Islam. Farrakhan's brand of religion distills the prejudice and fear at the core of most religions and reconstructs them to suit African Americans who find comfort in defining themselves first and foremost as victims. This religion of victimization has elevated Farrakhan to wide acceptance not just among Blacks, but among many Whites as well. But few of these people appreciate the truly bizarre and sinister nature of Farrakhan's world view.

Even the most cursory study of the Nation of Islam's philosophy reveals it to be one of blatant racism, founded upon what just might be the most absurd collection of divinely revealed gibberish ever presented to a modern people. Elijah Muhammad's book Message to the Blackman (Muhammad's Temple No. 2, Chicago, 1965), contains the essential elements of the Black Muslim creed. It would make for humorous reading were it not for the constant and ominous references to Whites as "devils" and "the enemy of Muslims (the black man.)" The history of the world, as reported by Elijah Muhammad, did not begin with Adam, as traditional Muslims would contend. Adam was, despite his primary position in the Bible, only the first White man. He was, furthermore, not created by God, but was the invention of a Black man, Yacub, a mad scientist who "using a special method of birth control law ... was able to produce the white race." Although Yacub is described as a Black man "born out of the 30 per cent dissatisfied," Muhammad also refers to him as "another God" (p. 110). This confusion is typical of Muhammad's writing and complements the character of Black Muslim doctrine, which is murky and implausible even by religious standards. At one point Muhammad denies Yacub was a "devil" (p. 118), then later concludes that he indeed was a devil (p. 134).

Black people, "the so-called Negroes," are identified by Muhammad as "the original man." Muhammad seemed to believe that black people are of great antiquity, at one point bafflingly referring to "our 66 trillion years from the moon" (p. 110). The White race only dates back 6,000 years. Even younger still are "the monkey family," who were created from White people as they "tried to graft themselves back to the black nation. A few got as far as what you call a gorilla (p. 119)."

Elijah Muhammad's account of world history is as bizarre as any religious myth. When the White race first appeared among the "Holy people of Islam," they created havoc for six months, until "the King" ordered them shipped off to Europe, or, as Muhammad calls it, "West Asia." The King sent a complement of guards, "armed with rifles, to keep the devils going westward" (p. 117). The use of rifles 6,000 years ago is an interesting detail, but Muhammad advances technology even further when, 2,000 years later, Moses "took a few sticks of dynamite" to dispatch 300 Whites who had frustrated his efforts to civilize them (p. 120). Although Louis Farrakhan has attempted, like David Duke, to moderate his racist philosophy when addressing wider audiences, he continues in the tradition of absurdities exemplified by Elijah Muhammad and so many "messengers of God" before him. Elijah Muhammad claimed to have received his revelations directly from God, in the form of the mysterious Master Wali Farad Muhammad. Farrakhan distinguished himself by claiming, in a speech delivered in Detroit in 1990, to have received a vision while "on a wheel that you call a UFO." This fantasy was relatively harmless. Most of his delusions are not so innocuous. A virulent homophobe, Farrakhan promotes, again without substantiation, the theory that AIDS is actually the result of an intentional biological assault on the Central African population: "[They're] not drug users nor are they homosexuals. How did they get AIDS?" This sort of idiocy is dangerous in ways that Farrakhan is seemingly too ignorant to understand.

In his well-attended speeches, Minister Farrakhan has amplified Elijah Muhammad's message, and added a few frightening twists of his own. His rantings are certainly no worse than those for which he recently disciplined his disciple Khallid Abdul Muhammad. In a speech entitled "The Making of the White Race," Farrakhan heaps abuse on Whites, urging his listeners to smell Whites, referring to them as "crackers" with a "flat glutemus [sic] maximus." While this observation brought approving laughter from the audience, Farrakhan soon changed the tone and proclaimed that "Muhammad and any Muslim will murder the devil. It's putting to death have the courage to do it, it's going to be done anyway." This is nothing short of encouraging murder, but Farrakhan has a history of making such statements, sometimes against other Blacks. In the December 4, 1964 issue of Muhammad Speaks, Farrakhan wrote regarding Malcolm X: "Such a man is worthy of death." Two months later, Farrakhan's wish was fulfilled. Farrakhan played no small part in establishing the internecine violence that haunted the African American Muslim community during the sixties and seventies. That same message of violence was still being broadcast in the eighties, even as Farrakhan posed as representing the darkest hue in his friend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. Riding the wave of new interest in Malcolm, Farrakhan now shamelessly praises the man he once condemned. While it is not difficult to find sections of Judeo-Christian sacred literature that parallel Elijah Muhammad's revelations in their bigotry and violence, we have to look to the fringes of modern Christianity and Judaism to find adherents that preach such hatred as a matter of course. Farrakhan's closest analogues are to be found in religious and quasi-religious groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Brotherhood, and the Zionist Kach movement.

The Nation of Islam differs from its White racist counterparts in the acceptance it receives from more mainstream groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP. The reaction of African American leadership to Farrakhan's lunatic fringe is in a sense as disturbing as Screwy Louie's warped reality. By ignoring the bigotry promoted by Farrakhan, these groups have impugned their own moral authority and thereby seriously damaged their ability to effectively promote equality in our society. This is a loss we can ill afford.

Patrick Inniss is a columnist from the Seattle, Washington area. The following piece appeared in his column ChristianWatch, and is reprinted with special permission of the author.

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This page was last updated 02/13/2004

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