What is the Nation of Islam?
The Nation of Islam, founded in Chicago in 1930, combines the religious aspects of Islam with the ideas of both black power and black nationalism.
It teaches that black people are the rulers of earth, who were created first, and who every other race descends from.
Malcolm X was perhaps the most famous Nation of Islam follower, and he convinced Muhammad Ali to join.
Malcolm grew disillusioned with the group, however, and left in 1964: members of the Nation murdered him a year later.
Martin Luther King was among those who criticized the Nation, describing it as racist.
Followers supported the idea of a separate state for African Americans in which they could rely on themselves to provide solutions to their own problems.
Unlike King, who promoted peaceful protest, the leaders of the Nation of Islam thought that violence was justified in self-defense. They felt black people should achieve what was rightfully theirs ‘by any means necessary.’
The Nation of Islam attracted many followers, especially in prisons, where lost African Americans looked for guidance and found solace in its strict moral codes and emphasis on discipline.
Malcolm X was a petty criminal before joining the Nation while in prison.
Farrakhan, 87, is known anti-Semite whose remarks on race and religion have sparked controversy in the past. He was outspoken against Barack Obama, and embraced Donald Trump – to the embarrassment of some of the Trump team.
Most recently, Farrakhan told followers not to get the COVID vaccine.
His supporters are seen by critics as black supremacists, and the Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes the organization as a hate group.
‘Its theology of innate black superiority over whites and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric of its leaders have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate,’ they say.
The founder of Nation, Wallace Fard, taught that Christianity was the white man’s religion, and said that Islam was more akin to traditional African beliefs.
Fard said there would be an apocalyptic overthrow of white domination, insisting that the dominion of evil was to end with God’s appearance on earth in the person of Fard.
His followers carried out military-style drills, in readiness for the coming battle.
Fard was succeeded by Elijah Muhammad, who died in 1975 and was succeeded three years later by Farrakhan.