Thursday, May 19, 2005

el- Hajj Malik el-Shabazz - 80th birthday.

Salaam Alaikum,

Today would've been the 80th birthday of Malcolm X - while there are some excellent discussions in the larger justice and peace communities about his contributions... Muslims also need to "own" Malcolm X, and learn a few things from his life...

Click here to listen to excerpts from a documentary: Make It Plain

And below is a repost of an article written by Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, a leading London based Muslim activist with Stop Political Terror: For more information go to http://www.stoppoliticalterror.com/

Malcolm X: an inspiration to Muslims struggling for justice

George Bush’s ‘war on terror’ has made Malcolm X’s vision of universal liberation uniquely relevant to Muslims today, writes civil rights activist Dr Adnan Siddiqui

Malcolm X — el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz — is an instantly recognisable figure. As an internationalist revolutionary, his images are as iconic as those of Che Guevara.

Yet the people who seem to know the least about him are the most in need of him. On a superficial level, most Muslims know Malcolm X from T-shirts and slogans.

But in the current climate of the “war on terror”, and its consequent demonisation of Muslims, his struggle and vision could not be more relevant.

Malcolm X fought for the rights of 22 million African-Americans, but he articulated this struggle in a global framework by arguing for universal human rights and an end to imperialism. His statement that “the only way we will get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world” encapsulates this vision. It is a message that Muslims everywhere need to grasp urgently.

Currently the Muslim world consists of a motley array of autocrats, dictators and kings whose only commonality is that they are not representative of the people and are strongly tied to Western interests.

In addition Muslims in Europe number about 15 million and have all the worst social indicators in terms of housing, health and education. We are effectively “economic slaves” in Fortress Europe.

Malcolm was fighting a similar situation at his time and because of his irrepressible nature he was labelled an “extremist” and a “militant”. If he had been alive today he would have been called a “terrorist” and would probably have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay or at “her majesty’s pleasure” in Belmarsh or Woodhill.

The current incarceration of Muslims in these prisons is, in a sense, a source of hope for us, since another Malcolm may well be serving his time before his release.

Historically when Muslims strived for social justice and civil societies, their “reward” was imprisonment or death. Yet they persisted. Malcolm’s struggle personified this and is an inspiring example for us all.

His role as a preacher who practised what he preached and did not fear authority stands in stark contrast to the “scholars for dollars” that tend to populate our mosques, who read scripted sermons authorised and cleared by the government.

They focus on the ritualistic aspects of Islam and ignore, or are ignorant of, the real social malaise blighting Muslims in Europe and the open persecution of them elsewhere.

But the tide is turning, and true to Malcolm’s engagement with the grassroots, there are now Muslim organisations and campaigns trying to honour his legacy. Examples include Stop Political Terror and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee in Britain and the Arab European League in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Those of us in these nascent movements need to be aware of two important points in Malcolm’s life which will help us to stay faithful to his struggle.

First, he was a human with human failings — but he was objective enough to be able to see that the Nation of Islam, which he had preached so powerfully for, was not all it seemed.

Malcolm left the Nation of Islam after performing his pilgrimage to Mecca and realising its reality. He was humble enough to accept his error, but brave enough to face the consequences of such a public withdrawal from the Nation.

Second, Malcolm’s relationship with Martin Luther King was not one of animosity, but of sincere advice. Malcolm had said on a number of occasions that we must unite on objectives, though not necessarily on methods, to facilitate unity. This was his guiding principle with Dr King’s movement.

The classic imperialist strategy to control freedom movements has been to “divide and rule”. In this case, Malcolm was cast as the extremist, the militant, the “bad negro”, while Dr King was cast as the moderate, the pacifist, the “good negro”. This is mirrored today with Muslims classifying themselves as “moderate” or “extremist”. These are defensive positions. We must not allow ourselves to buy in to this train of thought and language, which is designed to weaken us.

After Malcolm’s withdrawal from the Nation, he became more inclusive of people and movements. This would have allowed a greater cooperation with Dr King—which would have posed a real danger to the establishment. Within months Malcolm had been assassinated. Analysis of Martin Luther King’s speeches after Malcolm’s death suggest he was becoming more “Malcolm-like”. He ultimately paid the same price as his comrade.

Both understood the struggle and both paid with their lives. This is a sobering lesson for all of us involved in the struggle for justice and freedom, and one we need to internalise and be prepared for.

Dr Adnan Siddiqui is a GP based in south London and a leading activist with Stop Political Terror. For more information go to http://www.stoppoliticalterror.com/

This article was originally published here

6 comment(s):

  • Salaams

    I am a big fan of MPACUK (and SPT), but, who are these Imams "who read scripted sermons authorised and cleared by the government"?

    I think the growing relationship between the far left and British Muslim activists is quite productive, on the whole, but the downside is that they feed off each other's conspiracy theories and big brother paranoia.

    The result is that some of the Muslim intelligentsia in the UK take one look at MPACUK and start running in the opposite direction! Which is a shame, really, because there isn't another activist organisation which has so successfully galvanized British Muslims into action.

    May Allah guide them to greater victories.



    By Blogger Julaybib, at 4/22/2005 04:57:00 AM  

  • I dunno who the scripted imams might be--- but i do know that in the current climate, "preachers" and so-called "academic scholars" etc. do engage in 1) self-censorship and/or 2)total sell out, and basically say things that the empire wants to hear.

    And furthermore, we get to hear, for the most, only those voices that are authorized to be heard.

    This kind of analyses was done about the US media by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent. In this age - we might call it "manufacturing an islamic consensous" (call it "moderate" "progressive" etc. but it is one that suits the purpose of the United States).

    I think it is "conspiracy theory" only to the extent that it is important to identify which so-called "scholar" and/or "organization" is tied to which US and/or British govt. agency. So you have scholars who pose as "progressive" but have been appointed by the Bush administration to taskforces to reform the Arab world, for example.

    So-called "progressives" and "moderates" make a big deal about analyzing hadith literature, for example, in the context of the time, place, gender and social position of the narrator. But when these present day "scholars" are subjected to the same analyses - they raise a big stink - and suddenly you become a "wahabbi" "reactionary" and so on...

    But i do think that such analyses should be done in the larger context of understanding institutions, and how they operate. This will give us better tools to combat all the garbage that we are facing these days.

    I'll do a blog soon on the "new" COINTELPRO here in the US directed against Muslims and Arabs.

    best wishes, salaams


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/22/2005 12:34:00 PM  

  • First, I have a few issues with the article.

    1> Malcom X was not an "internationalist revolutionary". His life and his work was solely dedicated to the struggle of the black community in the US. His international outlook, as you correctly point out, has indeed changed after his pilgrimage to Mecca where he was able to understand Islam beyond the propagandist teachings of the Nation Of Islam. But his chief focus was freeing the "American Negro" from the evil of segregation and institutionalized discrimination.

    2> Malcom X was fighting institutionalized segregation in the US, which is a lot worse than the current ghetto situation in Europe (not that I am condoning the latter but a clear distinction between the 2 situations is in order)

    3> You seem to suggest that Malcom X was assassinated by "the establishment" that feared Malcolm’s cooperation with Dr King. Let's be clear on this: Malcom X was murdered by the Nation of Islam because he posed a threat to their agenda.

    I am a Muslim who is an avid supporter of Dr. King's philosophy. He was a staunch believer in non-violence and never compromised that belief even in the face of blatant abuse, intimidation, and murder. He said: ”Non-violence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people everywhere”

    Anger is an easy feeling to express (anybody can do it), self-control and spiritual strength is a whole different ballgame. Dr. King’s belief in non-violence not only resulted in end of segregation in US but also the defeat of Apartheid in South Africa. The main difference between Malcom and Dr King is that the former communicated anger while the latter communicated love and restraint in the face of evil. I greatly respect Malcom but I believe the Muslim World would be better served by a Dr. King.

    By Blogger Jawad, at 4/22/2005 04:04:00 PM  

  • Salam Guys,

    Malcom X played a major role in changing the black life in the US. I still feel melancholy when I remember the movie of Spike Lee with Denzel Washington. I read some years ago, his autobiography book by Alex Haley and it was made clear then that the Nation of Islam was behind his assassination. His attitude took indeed a major twist after his pilgrimage. After his return from Mecca, he changed his discourse. The “white” man was no longer the enemy. It was too much for the Nation of Islam. Jawad, the best days of Malcom X were yet to come had Elijah Mohamed and his disciples got away from his path.

    By Blogger Jallal EL Idrissi, at 5/19/2005 10:48:00 PM  

  • Salaam,

    "3> You seem to suggest that Malcom X was assassinated by "the establishment" that feared Malcolm’s cooperation with Dr King. Let's be clear on this: Malcom X was murdered by the Nation of Islam because he posed a threat to their agenda."

    Actually if you read the released COINTELPRO documents, the govt admits to having exacerbated and instigated the situation by writing false letters in the NOI and Br. Malik's name to each other. Sure there was a division, and yes the final assaination was carried out by NOI mebers, but FBI (self-admittedly) played a significant role in creating the hostile situation.

    "Dr. King’s belief in non-violence not only resulted in end of segregation in US but also the defeat of Apartheid in South Africa."

    One has to wonder what the effect of these 'non-violent' movements would have been if there weren't more radical and threating movements on the other side calling for more radical changes.

    Where would Martin Luther King be without Br. malcolm?

    Where would gandhi be, without Bhagat Singh or Chandragupta or the other revolutionaries in colonial India?

    rab rakha,

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 5/21/2005 01:03:00 PM  

  • Salam
    I find it weird that people constantly bicker over whether MLK or MX was "better" for Black civil rights in the US. Is it a competition? I think they complemented each other. I don't think either of them would approve of this historical taking of sides, as if one of them is Star Trek and the other Star Wars.

    By Blogger Anna in PDX, at 5/22/2005 10:16:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home