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The Unmet Challenge of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

At a local Masjid I attended recently, I told some brothers that they could greatly benefit from listening to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. They loathed the idea, bemoaning theological differences between the Nation of Islam and Sunni Islam. However, I contend that the Third Resurrection of Islam in Black America, as Dr. Sherman Jackson called for in his book, Islam and the BlackAmerican:  Looking Toward the Third Resurrection, will only occur when the Black Muslim community has a better understanding of Minister Farrakhan.

In a story narrated by Minister Farrakhan, he shared an experience when he was overseas and was told by some Islamic scholars, “you really need to learn the religion of Islam a little better”. In response, Minister Farrakhan stated he would like like to meet the scholars of Islam in Mecca.  In the meeting was several Islamic scholars but of particular note is Muhammad Qutb, the younger brother of Sayyid Qutb, the chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most influential Islamic revivalist organization of the 20th century. ( Muhammad Qutb’s writings influenced many Black socialists in the Black Panther Party to embrace Islam)

The next day, Shaykh Zindani, a leading scholar of Islam told Minister Farrakhan that he could not sleep all that night. The chief scholar of the meeting  Muhammad Qutb, was asked by the group to speak in refutation of Minister Farrakhan. However, in a display of humility, Qutb responded, “I did not come to speak. I came to listen and to learn, and I have both listened and learned.” I say it is about time that the Ummah did more listening and learning from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.”

What about Black Muslims?  Is it time we started listening and learning from Minister Farrakhan?

In “Islam and The BlackAmerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection,” Dr. Jackson writes that the departure of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the mass conversion of African-Americans to Sunni Islam under Imam  W. D. Muhammad coincided with the massive influx of immigrant Muslims who “introduced theological, juridical, and revivalist discourses that effectively banished native Black American instincts and understandings to the periphery. ”

What is noteworthy is that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan whom Dr. Sherman Jackson states during this time was the only Black muslim leader who, “refused to recognize immigrant and overseas authority” articulates during this time a profound critique of the inability of the shaykhs of Sunni Islam to grapple with the theological issues emerging from the Black experience of transatlantic  slavery in a manner that quenches the spiritual thirst of Black people and inspires in them a way to address their socio economic political conditions, a critique of how Islam became a tool of Arab cultural imperialism over black people, and of course the ubiquitous anti-Blackness in the Muslim writ large. In other words, what immigrant Muslims brought to America did very little to address the needs and concerns of Black Muslims and in some regards further oppressed Black Muslims with Arab and South Asian anti Black cultural imperialism.

During Louis Farrakhan’s rebuilding of the Nation of Islam, he frequently cited the inability of eastern Islamic scholars to teach Black folks Islam in a manner that would encourage them to continue to struggle for their liberation.  “They were satisfied only if you said your prayers and read the Qu’ran in Arabic, they didn’t know what to make of you Black people other than that. But Islam is not just to make you an Arabic reader of the Qu’ran, it is to bring you back to what you were.”

Black Muslims learned the rituals of the faith and the Arabic language but very little if anything to change the social, political, and economic conditions of Black people.  Farrakhan asks the following question,”You’re in the Mosque by yourself. You learned Arabic, you can say the prayers perfectly but what are you doing today for yourself? ” Black Muslims walk past the worst conditions our people suffer to get to a masjid, say prayers, and keep going.  We can do better.

Whereas most theories of Islamic revival are predicated upon geo-political changes in the “Middle-East,”, Minister Farrakhan is the only Muslim who has posited a theory of Islamic revival centered upon oppressed inner-city Black communities.  He tells another story when he traveled to the Gulf States and several Muslims told him that despite growing up in the Muslim world, they never really practiced their faith or cared for their faith until they came to America and observed the zeal for which Black Muslims practiced Islam.

From this, Minister Farrakhan gleans that by making our communities the finest Muslim community in the world, the faith of the entire Ummah can potentially be reawakened, “We are going to be made that which will make the Islamic world admire us and become revived by the Islam that comes out of the hearts of those classified as dead.” The outcome of this theory of Islamic revival leads to the Black community’s engagement by the Nation of Islam that is frankly unrivaled by other Muslim communities. They manifest this in conflict resolution efforts, drug rehabilitation programs, schools, businesses, a newspaper and other community services.

As to his critics, Minister Farrakhan states bluntly, “If you have the proper tawheed and the proper aqeedah, you got to have the proper actions that bares witness to your aqeedah.”  It is a daily challenge and struggle to actually use Qu’ran and Sunnah to uplift Black communities instead of embracing reactionary American assimilationist politics that ignore the fact that Blacks are outside of mainstream America.   Black Sunni Masjids unfortunately have been driven to complete irrelevancy in many Black communities due to their lack of engagement. How can we meet the challenge to save our people?

When one looks at the Black Sunni intelligentsia who have positions of influence in the “American Muslim”  community they largely take political positions that are not in the best interest of Black People.

I believe, and Allah knows best, Islam in Black America will never thrive until the unity of Black Muslims includes Minister Farrakhan and together we work to give our people Quran and Sunnah in a manner that quenches their spiritual thirst and inspires them to address their socio economic and political conditions.

Why Chicago’s Gang Problem is White

 

In a recent op-ed about Chicago’s epidemic of gang-violence, former Fox News conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly wrote, “the criminals causing the destruction are largely comprised of Black street gang members who sell narcotics in poor, minority neighborhoods.” He describes Black youth caught up in Chicago’s gang warfares as, “callous, violent individuals who have no regard for human life.”   O’Reilly advocates prison as the only solution, “Those gang members killing innocents are evil and no social program will change that. They should be locked away for decades.”  

When many think of Chicago’s “gang problem”, they think of the Gangsta Disciples, Black Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Vice Lords, Black Stones and other street organizations that run Chicago’s impoverished Black communities. But anyone who really wants to solve a problem knows you have to get to the root of the matter to really solve a problem.  The roots of Chicago’s gang problem are deep, decades deep, almost a century deep. Long before Black street organizations ascended to prominence, Chicago’s streets were made bloody by white gangs who massacred the city’s Black population. Indeed, it is the white gang-violence inflicted on Chicago’s Black populations that laid the foundation for the socio economic conditions for the contemporary violence seen in the Black community.

As my people began migrating to north from the South, the Chicago Tribune began running sensationalist headlines, “Half a million darkies from Dixie swarm to the north to better themselves” suggesting that Blacks were ‘infecting” the city.  In response, white gangs began to bomb Black households in an effort to systematically drive them out of Chicago .

In 1917, Mrs. S. P. Motley’s house was bombed, the next year 25 more houses were bombed, whites would also send threatening messages to Black homes in other areas, “Look out; you’re next” and “We are going to blow these flats to hell and if you don’t want to go with them you had better move out.” Tragically,  in 1919, a six year old girl was killed in a bombing.

These bombings, shootings, and arsons of Black communities were ultimately linked to Irish gangs.  In Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919, historian William M. Tuttle writes “These gangs, composed of white teenagers and young men in their twenties, many of the roughest of whom were of Irish descent, had terrorized Black people for years.”

What is particularly troubling is that not only were these individuals who carried out massacres of black neighborhoods not prosecuted for their crimes, but they would later be actively recruited into Chicago’s Police Department.  Criminal Justice Professor, John M. Hagedorn writes that the very same Irish gang which was a “violent racist tool to enforce segregation,” would be “reinvented as the Chicago Police Department.”

Thus from its earliest days, Chicago’s police department had members with the blood of innocent Black people on their hands and they recruited from white gangs who terrorized Black communities.  The decision of the Chicago Police Department to recruit from among white racist gangs would instill an anti-black culture in the entire institution.

As someone of Irish heritage himself, O’reilly would do well to reflect on the differing reactions of the city in responses Irish gang violence and that of Black gang violence.

The Chicago Housing Authority as an Anti-Black Gang

A Gang is defined broadly as an organized body of criminals who engaged in criminal activities. When one considers the rampant structural violence that has sentenced Black chicagoans to slow deaths, the Chicago Housing Authority fits fairly within this definition of a gang.  In the 1950’s, the Chicago Housing Authority established a segregated residential area for Black people. They built the community on a landfill in a toxic area surrounded with chemical waste incinerators and abandoned dumps with poisonous waste.

According to Environmental Justice Atlas, “Altgeld gardens had the highest concentration of hazardous waste sites in the nation.”  As a result of these environmental conditions,  residents of this area have an extremely high rate of children born with brain tumor, rare birth defects, asthma, and  large number of fetuses of mothers in the area were aborted because of brains developing outside of the skull.

Though Altgeld Garden was originally built as amo segregated community, the passage of civil rights legislation did nothing to remove or enable black  people from this community to escape the segregated conditions they had been placed within.

In a study of the impact of the Fair Housing Act passed in Chicago to outlaw racial discrimination, sociologist Douglass S. Massey notes that, due to practices such as redlining, racial steering, and blockbusting that developed in the Post-Jim Crow era, “the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.” In fact, if current trends continue, blacks in Chicago’s south and westside neighborhoods will still be de facto segregated groups for decades into the future.

Thus, contrary to the assertions of Bill  O’reilly, historically speaking the real criminals of Chicago have been of white ancestry. They have used their power to terrorize black people, inhibit their social mobility, and force them in neighborhoods unfit for human habitability. It is the wretched conditions that Blacks have been forced to live within that has forced so many oppressed black youth into gangs and the drug economy for pure survival. While one may look at Chicago’s gang problem as a black phenonoman, the reality is  its origins are white.