A New Farrakhan?

In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies, the U.S. media has focused much attention on Islamic people of foreign descent. But what about the "home-grown" variety—the Nation of Islam? What's been happening in the organization of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan?

In recent years, the Nation of Islam has drawn closer to mainstream Islam. For example, in February 2000, at the Nation of Islam's annual Savior's Day celebration, Imam Wallace D. Mohammed of the Muslim American Society joined Farrakhan on the stage and the two men warmly embraced after Farrakhan declared, "We bear witness that there is no prophet after the prophet Mohammed!"

With that statement Farrakhan rejected the theology that had defined the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad and Farrakhan himself. Wallace Mohammed's presence at the celebration—along with Sayyid Sayeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, 4 million members strong and the major group for immigrant Muslims—indicates a willingness of mainstream Islamic organizations to accept Farrakhan's efforts to move closer to orthodox Islam. But two years later the question remains as to whether rank-and-file members of the Nation of Islam are looking to follow Farrakhan in his move to orthodox Islam.

A study by the American Muslim Council indicates that blacks make up one half of all Muslims in the United States and are the fastest growing segment. But these growing numbers of African American Muslims are increasingly adherents to orthodox Islam, not the theology of the Nation of Islam—and many of them are made even more wary by the Nation's history.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2002
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