Scholars Receive Grant Money From Homeland Security to Study the Nation of Islam: What is the Ultimate Objective?
By Fahim A. Knight-El
This writer in October 2009, at a public forum met a professor named Dr. Rolin Mainuddin who is an associate professor of political science at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, which at this initial meeting, he explained to me that he was doing some research on three `Islamic' groups, the Nation of Islam, Ahmadiyya movement and the Bahi' Faith. But he was interested in me possibly assisting him with the Nation of Islam piece of the research. He gave me his business card and contact information and asked me to get back with him with my decision. Thus, upon getting back to my office, I Google searched his name and located his academic vitae because I was somewhat curious about his academic background and training (I must admit, I am very suspicious of people or strangers finding me and this sort of goes back to my level of understanding Cointelpro).
This writer back in 1994 published a book on the Nation of Islam titled, "In Defense of the Defender: The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad". Let me just give my readers a little background of why I decided to write in defense of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It was written as an antithesis to Spike Lees' 1992 epic film titled, "Malcolm X" and how he poorly portrayed Elijah Muhammad, the man who woke Minister Malcolm X up and gave him a world stage. This writer, also a few years later had given scholarly assistance to Dr. Claud Clegg (presently on the faculty of Indiana University at Bloomington) former professor of history at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina who authored a book titled, "An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad" published in 1997 by St. Martin's Press.
My first meeting with Dr. Mainuddin, I summated that perhaps he was originally from one of the Muslim nations in the Far East somewhere in Asia, I guessed Indonesia, but he was the classical academician—cordial, eccentric and highly intelligent, somewhat personable and aloof at the same time. His personal web page posted by North Carolina Central University stated: "Dr. Mainuddin received his doctorate in political science in October 1992 from the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His first teaching experience began in Kansas in the Fall of 1985 as a teaching assistant. Originally from Bangladesh, his first educational experience in the United States was at Ohio University, Athens. There, he completed two master's degrees: political science (1986) and international affairs (1984), with a concentration in international administration for the latter. Earlier, he completed master's (1982) and bachelor's (1981) in international relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before returning to Bangladesh for college, he had completed high school education (O'-levels and A'-levels) at Queen's College, Nassau, the Bahamas, in the mid-1970s."
"In addition to the privilege of being elected president of the North Carolina Political Science Association (2002-2003) and the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS, 1998-1999), Mainuddin is a recipient of NCCU Excellence in Teaching Award (1999) and ATWS Presidential Award (1995). Furthermore, he had the honor to participate in the Fulbright-Hays Program in Israel and Jordan (Summer 2001). Having served as associate editor for Middle East for the Journal of Third World Studies (2003-2006), a faculty development grant from NCCU gave Mainuddin an enriching experience in Yemen (Summer 2006)."
He was a Sunni Muslim looking to investigate the Nation of Islam in which I was initially very skeptical about his possible predisposed religious bias given that the Nation of Islam has been viewed as a "heretic sect" by what is deemed mainstream and so-called traditional Islam. But after many conversations with Dr. Mainuddin, my intuition led me to believe that he was making every effort to detach his personal beliefs from the research and gave me the impression of his desire to be objective and impartial. He had been teaching at this small African American liberal arts institution for over 15 years and seemed to be a research minded professor and scholar. This writer was fully aware that most professors and academicians who worked at historical black colleges and universities are forced to be engaged in teaching and lecturing and scholarly research and publishing are not considered high priorities (so I must say that I was impressed that this black college professor has stepped outside the box, but that is not say that I wasn't suspicious of his relationship with the funding agency the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
I had met the former chairman of the North Carolina Central University political science department years ago; his name was Dr. Jeffrey Elliot and served as mentor to me early on in my intellectual development. Dr. Elliot was Jew, but he had a serious interest in African American political history (authored a book titled, "Black Voices: Interviews With Prominent Afro-Americans") and movements and was one of the smartest and insightful intellectuals that had the privilege to meet and study under. Dr. Elliot authored over 150 books and hundreds of scholarly articles.
So when Dr. Mainuddin approached me about assisting with his research project, I immediately thought of the late Dr. Elliot, my mentor who chaired that department for many years and was a colleague of Dr. Mainuddin. However, as I stated above I was initially a little apprehensive because most western scholars have not treated the Nation of Islam as a topic and subject with fair and scholarly balance. This type of objectivity is very important to me, in particular when someone is asking me to assist them with a research project such as dealing with the Nation of Islam and this is not to say that Dr. Mainuddin will treat this movement any different than other scholars who have written on this movement; notwithstanding the many open and positive correspondences we have had. But on the surface he seemed genuine and possessed a level of integrity and sincerity.
Thus, after a number of meetings, emails and telephone calls between myself and Dr. Mainuddin, I decided to assist him in his research project. Dr. Mainuddin explained to me that he was working with the University of Maryland at College Park with the giving topic titled, "Choosing Between Violence and Non-Violence,". The Department of Homeland Security as mentioned above was one of the principle funding sources and had made grant money available to these scholars which to carryout this research. I did not ask Dr. Mainuddin about the amount of the grant and how much financial compensation was in it for him in which that would not have been an intrusive question because it was tax based money being made available for studying Islam and violence? This researcher ordinarily would have asked Dr. Mainuddin to write me and my services into the grant proposal because I was going to play an intricate part in establishing contacts and providing him with an in depth analysis of Nation of Islam and the so-called Black Muslim Movement.
I introduced him to Minister Amon Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque #34 (Durham, North Carolina) and Minister Amon Muhammad was in a much better position than I (after all he was Minister Louis Farrakhan representative in the city of Durham) to guide this scholar through the Nation of Islam bureaucracy and protocol procedures and could provide him with some valuable insight into the life giving teachings. My role, in particular was to focus only on the aspect of the research pertaining to the Nation of Islam, and he had lined others up who would be assisting him with the Bahi' Faith and the Ahmadiyya movements exclusively.
I recommend to Dr. Mainuddin that he read all of Messenger Muhammad's writings such as "Message to the Blackman in America, "The Fall of America", "How to Eat to Live", "Our Savior Has Arrived", etc., and I also advised him to attend the Nation of Islam annual Saviours' Day Convention held each February in Chicago (given in honor of Nation of Islam founder Master Fard Muhammad) and he followed my recommendation an attended the national convention. Dr. Mainuddin participated in some of the various workshops that were being conducted at the Saviours' Day convention and after returning it was evident that he had a new found respect for the Nation of Islam as an organization. I also advised him while in Chicago to contact Munir Muhammad of the Coalition For the Remembrance of Elijah (C.R.O.E.) who are serious archivist and curators of Elijah Muhammad's legacy.
This writer also advised Dr. Mainuddin that there were a number of Nation of Islam organizations who adhere strictly to the life giving teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and do not follow Minister Louis Farrakhan (for example, Supreme Minister John Muhammad, Minister Silis Muhammad, Minister Solomon Royall, etc.). Most of these scholars love to sought after so-called Islamic scholars such as Dr. Amina McCloud a professor of Islamic Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Let's be clear many of these `Negro' scholars of this type joined on to Imam Warith Deen Mohammed and betrayed the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and in my sight they have no credibility.
These three religious groups (the Nation of Islam, Ahmadiyya movement and the Bahi' Faith) would be classified as `pseudo' Islamic groups (not that I agree with this classification) that have unique philosophical teachings with extremely unconventional and unorthodox Islamic theologies—deviations from mainstream Sunni Islam and Shia Islam. But these three Islamic groups have coexisted in the dominant society (United States of America) without perpetuating and espousing a sense of militant Islamic radicalism that has led to violence and so-called acts of terrorism which has plagued some members who have embraced the two dominant Islamic schools of thought—Sunni and Shia. This writer believes that this type of study that Dr. Mainuddin was preparing to embark upon, perhaps acquired scholarly relevance and gained momentum after the 9/11 crisis. The social scientist and U.S. intelligence community desired to get into the mind of Islam and really wanted to know on one level, if it was the theology that drives the fundamentalist behavior and mindset towards violence. They are projecting that this study will provide them with certain data and empirical conclusions; or what is it about these so-called three Islamic "sects" and their teachings that have fostered a non-violent approach relative to confronting their perceived nemesis, which is not necessarily considered western society as it is perceived by the dominant Islamic religion.
However, I am quite sure that each group possess spiritual teachings relating to how the enemy of the righteous is going to be dealt with, but I do not think the answers to these questions totally lie in understanding the theology and culture of these three above said faith traditions (individual will also plays a huge part in human behavior and this is not to say that human behavior can not be influenced by external variables). Yet at the same time there is much the scholars can learn about minority groups and subcultures such as fringed Islamic movements that have so-called deviated from the mainstream ideology of Islam and have maintained a high level of social and political civility (perhaps there is something in this phenomenon that we all can learn from). What is it that causes them to have no affiliation with terrorism and have not aligned themselves with violent extremist who are bent on imposing massive collateral damage on the west by any means necessary?
Thus, this phenomenon relative to the Nation of Islam, Ahmadiyya and Bahi Faith have at least intrigued the United States Government and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate by involving the academic community and scholars, which to create some empirical data, assessing and evaluating the theology, philosophy and the tenets of belief that caused these three Islamic movements to teach and embrace a doctrine that do not necessarily has a history inspired by Jihad and violence driven believers. This is not to overlook what took place in 1973 with the Hanifi Muslim sect and the killing of its leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis family in Washington, DC by the members of the Philadelphia Black Mafia (whom some believe had strong ties and allegiance to the Nation of Islam under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad).
There is little doubt that former Nation of Islam Minister Jeremiah Shabazz of Temple Number 12 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was covertly involved in organized crime and many have alleged that he personally sent the hit squad to Washington, DC to kill Khaalis for slandering the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's good name. Minister Shabazz was never indicted or charged with those heinous crimes and murders of members of the Hanifi Sect (former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar belonged to this group). (Reference: Sean Patrick Griffin; "Phildelphia's Black Mafia: A Social and Political History").
Also, the Nation of Islam was alleged to have been involved in a string of killings on the West Coast in the San Francisco area in 1973-1974 called the Zebra killings, but these allegations were proven false and that is not to say that Black Muslim individuals did not participate in some of the Zebra killings who acted as individuals. Two books on the subject have been published, Zebra (1979), by Clark Howard, which is out of print, and The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights (2006) by Prentice Earl Sanders and Bennett Cohen. Yet, this is not to suggest that these groups haven't had disagreements with the status quo. John Allen Muhammad (the DC Sniper), an alleged former member of the Nation of Islam in which some believe that he was once a member in the Nation of Islam under Minister Farrakhan who in 2002 went on an unprovoked killing spree. But Minister Louis Farrakhan repudiated and denounced these killings and he and the Nation of Islam were never indicted in the John Allen Muhammad incident.
Dr. Mainuddin stated: "with your help, I would appreciate the opportunity to interview members of the Nation of Islam in the Raleigh area. What I am hoping for is an individual perspective (rather than as a spokesperson of one's community) to understand one's view about khatam al-nabiyeen (seal/last of prophets) and attitude towards non-violence/violence despite the legacy of societal challenges facing the community". This correspondence is sort of a follow-up to a question that you asked relative to, why Nation of Islam has chosen a non-violence over violence discourse in its 80 year history, as an Islamic organization within the United States of America.
Dr. Mainuddin seemed intrigued by the divinity that the Nation of Islam had ascribed to Master Wali Fard Muhammad (1877-?) (Allah who appeared in the person) and during my interview with him, the majority of questions revolved around the history of Master Fard Muhammad. We talked at great length about this most central figure to understanding how the Nation of Islam evolved and the foundation of all the tenets rest upon the theology and Islamic paradigm established by the Great Madhi (and the Christ of the Christian world) W.F. Muhammad. I believe that Master Wali Fard Muhammad philosophical and theological approach was rooted in surviving the cultural dynamics of a system that was ingrained in white supremacy. He was definitely well aware of Black people's history and sojourn in America relative to their 310 year experience, perhaps under one of the most inhumane and brutal systems to be ever recorded in the annals of time, which was Chattel Slavery (1555-1865).
He officially, arrived on the scene on July 4, 1930 (although he was in and out of America for some twenty years before he made his identity known to the lost tribe of Shabazz), within city of Detroit, Michigan and began teaching the oppressed downtrodden Blacks of Paradise Valley. It is believed that this strange man who was a peddler of silk had converted over twenty-five thousand black people to Islam. Wali Fard Muhammad understood that many blacks who were brought to the Americas were descendents of Muslim ancestry, but slavery had brought about such disconnect relative to them being able to identify with their native land of Africa and with the other original people of the earth. Blacks lost their religion, their God, language, culture, land, etc., during the viciousness of the Middle Passage and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It was taught in the Nation of Islam's theology that it was this historical predicament which justified God himself coming to save, reclaim and redeem a fallen humanity (the Asiatic Black man).
This is what Master Fard Muhammad said about his coming in the Lessons: "My name is W. F. Muhammad. I came to North America by myself. My uncle was brought over here by the Trader three hundred seventy-nine years ago. My uncle cannot talk his own language. He does not know that he is my uncle. He likes the Devil because the Devil gives him nothing. Why does he like the Devil? Because the Devil put fear in him when he was a little boy. Why does he fear, now, since he is a big man? Because the Devil taught him to eat the wrong food. Does that have anything to do with the above question, No. 10? Yes, sir!. That makes him other than his own self. What is his own self? His own self is a righteous Muslim. Are there any Muslims other than righteous? I beg your pardon? I have never heard of one. How many Muslim sons are there in North America? Approximately three million. How many original Muslims are there in North America? A little over seventeen million. Did I hear you say that some of the seventeen million do not know that they are Muslims? YES, SIR! I hardly believe that unless they are blind, deaf and dumb. Well, they were made blind, deaf and dumb by the Devil when they were babies. CAN THE DEVIL FOOL A MUSLIM? NOT NOWADAYS, Do you mean to say that the Devil fooled then three hundred seventy-nine years ago? Yes, the T R A D E R made an interpretation that they receive G O L D for their labor - more than they were earning in their own country. Then did then receive gold? NO. The Trader disappeared and there was no one that could speak their language. Then what happened? WELL, they wanted to go to their own country, but they could not swim nine thousand miles. Why didn't their own people come and get them? Because their own people did not know that they were here. When did their own people find out that they were here? Approximately sixty years ago."
Master Fard Muhammad could not bring a message of arm resistance or teach violent physical retaliation against the oppressor and the United States Government because it would have meant an early demise for him personally and the Nation of Islam in general, (he arrived during the period of Jim Crow Era and this was a dangerous time for blacks in America). He understood early on that the Nation of Islam was a small minority religious entity and jihad would have been suicidal, in particular when you are confronting one of the most industrialized nations in the world who possessed the best military industrial complex in the world. Perhaps second only to Israel.
Thus, although, Black people historically have always had political, economic and social gripes with the United States Government and throughout history has been vocal about their social discontent, as an oppressed and marginalized people. Perhaps none more than the likes of Demark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner and the works of David Walker (who advocated violent slave revolts that were unsuccessful), as well as others who represented this position and it was carried out in countless slave rebellions and the above mentioned leadership prototype confronted the issue of oppression and repression with violent resistance. However, history tells us that this type of militant and radical political action brought about more oppressive restrictions and reactionary polices being imposed by the United States Government against black people, as a political backlash for their resistance.
Let me at this juncture briefly mention the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense which was founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, as an example, of a Black Nationalist group who took up arm struggle and it became a catastrophic tactical decision that led to many Black Panther Party members being killed and others receiving long term federal and state prison sentences. The decision to take up arms led to their demise as an organization in which Elijah Muhammad warned them that this would be their fate. The Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s would be met today with the long arm of the U.S. Patriot Act, Enemy Combatant laws, Military Commission Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, etc., in which these massive Executive Orders and legislative Acts have render dissention at a minimum and it has worked to usurp American civil liberties.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad sympathized with their cause, but he reminded us that Allah would be the one to fight his battles and this political-theological approach kept him and the Nation of Islam out of harms way. However, that is not to say that black revolutionary arm struggle did not produce some positive results, in particular confronting a racist society and gaining the respect (they understood that a life for a life was possible when confronting armed Black men).
Master Fard Muhammad knew that he needed a different strategy and tactic to confront the enemy (who at that time in the Nation of Islam's history was the white race) and yet simultaneously he needed a message that would resonate with a people who were disenfranchised and who were still psychologically scarred and historically traumatized from the viciousness of Chattel Slavery.
Many Blacks who accepted the Nation of Islam's teachings and became Muslims were prior Christians, in which the theology of Christianity dealt with the question of retribution and forgiveness as a matter of accepting and believing that Jesus Christ (personified as God and the son of God) had power and authority to resolve all earthly matters and human intervention would only be a compromise of the type of justice that omnipotent one would deliver to the unjust (vengeance is mine said the Lord). Master Fard Muhammad taught from both the Bible and Qur'an; the white slave masters who initially interpreted the scriptures for the Black slaves taught them the importance of obedience (trust and love your master). Moreover, good and evil were to be determined by a supernatural force which sat in heaven (the mystery god concept); of course the white slave masters used the scriptures to justify his superiority and Black people's inferiority.
Blacks who became members of the Nation of Islam in 1930's, up until perhaps the early 1970's found comfort in a movement that politically agitated and spoke to the question of black rage, that the scholar Eric Michael Dyson often makes mention of. This perceived anger and discontent that Nation of Islam fostered served to assure its parishioners that their worldview were directly opposed to the United States Government and the white race. This position continued to win them new converts and allies in America and outside of America. No, one group has played to white guilt better than the Nation of Islam.
Their condemnation of white supremacy has always fulfilled a psychological void and in the same manner it assured Blacks that they were not defenseless and they used a war of words to exemplify their strength and courage to the powerless Black masses. They viewed it as speaking truth to power. But the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Master Fard Muhammad taught strict discipline and obedience to Allah (the black God) and Black Muslim theology as it is written in the Lost-Found Muslim Lessons and "Message to the Blackman in America". Muhammad taught that America was prophesized to be destroyed in 1914 (reference all the works of Jabril Muhammad; formerly known as Bernard Cushmere) and that she would burn in a lake of fire. But she is now existing under a period of grace by Allah`s permission. (Reference Elijah Muhammad speech the "Judgment" which was initially published as a 45 Album).
Also, it was taught that Allah, who came in the person of Master Fard Muhammad told the Honorable Elijah Muhammad directly from his mouth of the plan that he Allah had for the U.S. Government and the enemies of the righteous. This symbolic cryptic message alone brought a more theological credibility to a passive-aggressive theological worldview that continued to assure the believers that Allah had promised this to his Messenger that the enemies of the righteous had a randevu with destiny and ultimately they would be brought to destruction. Muhammad also taught about the Mother ship (a wheel within a wheel) constructed on the Island of Nepal and written about in the book of Ezekiel within the Bible. This mother ship was equipped with over 1500 baby bombing planes and will create an Apocalypse, (salvation for Black race and doom for the white race)
The Nation of Islam clerics in sermons knew how far to go and no matter how militant or radical the message may have been, the believers were always left with the belief that Allah would act on their behalf and they had no obligation to render any harm to any person and this included members of the white race. This created a view that in many ways was consistent with the dominant Sunni Islamic view that he Allah is one God, he begets nor is he begotten and there is none like him according to the Holy Qur'an Shariff and at the same time there was a man named Master Fard Muhammad (an anthropomorphic being—Allah on earth to the Nation of Islam) which contradicts the dominant Islamic view of God in which he is the one to decide the fate of the white world (this is the view of Allah that is widely accepted in the Nation of Islam).
The theology of Nation of Islam and their belief system have always assured them that Allah was on the side of the oppressed (and righteous) Asiatic Black man and no one could render him justice like what Allah has prepared for him (we are not speaking of that mystery God that does not exist). This faith in a God orchestrated jurisprudence, which was rooted in a divine judgment has always tempered any thought of the Nation of Islam resorting to violence as a political option in confronting systemic practices of racism, fairness, injustice, discrimination, etc. Although, the U.S Government and the Nation of Islam have had a contentious and antagonistic relationship over its eighty year history, it has for the most part been a tolerable coexistence .
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad understood the geo-political dynamics of the Muslim world and the United States. The Muslim world viewed the United States and the Western Governments as systems of evil who had vested interest to corrupt the political, economic and social systems germane to Islam as a religion and institution (not to mention the Israeli and Palestinian issue and the question of Zionism). The Muslim world had experience European colonialism and has been in a long protracted struggle to fight vestiges of neo-colonialism that is shrouded in western cultural influences, which have covertly worked to undermined Islamic theocratic societies and in some instances this is being done in a de-facto manner.
The Islamic World has resorted to the use of carnal weapons of war in order to fight their battles with their enemies and yet, they preach the authenticity and power of Allah to intervene in the affairs of men, but do not trust him enough to bring their enemies to its knees. The Nation of Islam truly believes in that power of Allah and some of this is described in the book "The Fall of America" that was published I believe in 1973. Allah is more than capable of dealing with the forces of evil.
9/11 brought many challenges to the Nation of Islam, in particular and all of Islam in general, all Muslims and the Nation of Islam came under intense scrutiny and surveillance from various Homeland Security agencies. The United States Government was working hard to determine, if the Nation of Islam had any external foreign alliances that could jeopardize the United States national security. Although, Minister Louis Farrakhan had visited many Islamic nations and met with foreign Muslim dignitaries whom President George Bush called "rogue nations" and "axis of evil"; thus, Farrakhan travels were being scrutinized with a fine tooth comb, with an objective of so-called trying to link the Nation of Islam to any radical, militant and extremist organization, which to use the United States judicial system and criminal justice system to punish the Nation of Islam for having these type international relations with some of America's perceived enemies.
The Nation of Islam as an organization had no history of supporting violence and was not involved in any subversive activities that would have compromised U.S. national security. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught that we should respect the United States sovereignty and flag. Let me end here. However, this is only a portion of my dialog and conversations with the scholar Dr. Rolin Mainuddin.
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at fahimknight@ yahoo.com.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-El