BLACK MUSLIMS The Black Muslims are members of a religious black nationalist organization formally called the Nation of Islam. Founded in Detroit in 1930 by F. D. Fard, an obscure peddler and prophet, leadership of the Muslim movement rested in the hands of Elijah Muhammad (originally Elijah Poole). From 1934 until his death in early 1975, Muhammad was recognized as the "messenger" of Allah on earth: "There is No God But Allah. Muhammad is His Apostle."
Claiming a tie to the Islamic peoples of the world, Black Muslims accept the general tenets of the religion of Islam, including the rigidly monotheistic belief in one omnipotent, omniscient and merciful God (Allah) and in the obligatory worship of Him. Additionally, Muslims advocate a rigorously moral (if not puritanical) life style. The use of tobacco and alcohol is expressly prohibited, as is adultery. Muslim women are expected to dress with extreme modesty, foregoing the use of jewelry, lipstick and other ordinary cosmetics. Members are also expected to practice personal habits of thrift, hard work and personal cleanliness.
In addition to its religious dimension, the Nation of Islam has advocated a policy of racial separation and black nationalism. Branding whites as "devils," the Muslims denounce any form of integration, including intermarriage. Elijah Muhammad maintained that "integration is a clever trick of the devils. We should not be deceived [into] thinking that this offer of integration is leading us into a better life." In 1964, Muhammad stated that the Muslims wanted "to be allowed to establish a separate state or territory. . . either on this continent or elsewhere. We believe that our former slave-masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next twenty to twenty-five years — until we are able to produce and supply our own needs. Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality, we demand complete separation."
During the early 1960's, the leading voice of the Black Muslims was Malcolm X, who had been converted to Muhammad's teachings while in prison. Following his release, he became an out-
spoken and provocative defender of the Muslim belief that whites constitute a devil race whose sole ambition is the attempted emasculation of the black race. Separation of the two races, he concluded, was the only solution to America's racial problem: "We don't think that it is possible for the American white man in sincerity to take the action necessary to correct the unjust conditions that twenty million black people here are made to suffer morning, noon, and night." This being the case, Malcolm continued, "instead of asking or seeking to integrate into the American society we want to face the facts of the problem the way they are, and separate ourselves."
Largely as the result of strained relations between the two, Elijah Muhammad suspended Malcolm from the Muslim sect in 1963. Following the assassination of Malcolm in 1965, the Muslims suffered a brief decline as a result of the popular belief that they were directly involved in the slaying. Since then, however, Muslim strength (especially in regard to their black capitalistic ventures) has been revived and it continues to be one of the major black nationalist groups in the United States.
Among the more notable Muslim "converts" was Muhammad Ali (originally Cassius Clay), the former heavyweight boxing champion. Shortly before his much publicized bout with George Foreman in late 1974, Ali was interviewed on national television by former black football player turned actor Jim Brown. Defending his belief in the Muslim doctrine of separatism, Ali stated that racial separation is inherent in the very order of Nature, pointing out that sparrows do not mix with pigeons, nor chickens with bluebirds. Hence, it is contrary to Nature for the human races to mix. See also: BLACK CAPITALISM, BLACK NATIONALISM and MALCOLM X.