Nation of Dogma - Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

Fruit of Islam

An anarchist critique of the Nation of Islam from Black Autonomy magazine in 1995.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 22, 2024

Webster's New Collegiate dictionary defines a dogma as: "A doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated, and authoritatively presented by a church."

Then clearly this definition would apply to the Nation of Islam, which is both a church and a religious Black nationalist movement. For over 70 years the NOI has propagated its program among the Black masses of North America. Never accepted as an Islamic movement by the rest of the Eastern world because of its rabid xenophobia and racism, it nevertheless has enjoyed some success because of its black nationalist program and the especial appeal of Malcolm X in the 1960's and Minister Louis Farrakhan in the present, who appears to have learned the public relations techniques from the latter even while he denounces him as a "traitor" to this day.

A Short History of the Nation of Islam

Although they deny it vociferously, many of the religious and political ideals upon which the NOI is founded rest upon that of other movements which preceded them, specifically the Islamic ideals contained in the Moorish Science Temples of Noble Drew Ali, (which both Elijah Muhammad and W.D. Fard were said to have been part of), as well as the political line of the Universal Negro Improvement Association of Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Both of these movements were very influential in the 1920's especially, and they changed the face of African American black nationalist politics. Drew Ali had over 30,000 followers and Garvey's movement numbered into the millions. Ali's movement was the first one to introduce Islam into Black communities and Garvey's approach of repatriation or moving the African peoples to Africa where they could erect an independent African state were immensely popular at that time.

So it is from that period that we trace the history of the NOI, not their story of a "mysterious merchant" named Fard, who was Allah sent to organize the heathens in the wilderness of the North America, starting with Detroit in 1930. It was Ali's Moorish Science Temples which first organized in Newark, N.J. in 1913, and that later had Temples in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harlem (N.Y.), and numerous other city in the North and South, which first put forth the ideology identifying Africans in America as "Asiatics", he called his movement a "nation" and even issued "nationality and identification cards" to his followers. Drew, who called himself a "prophet" preached the same doctrine as that of the later to be established NOI that the whites were sure to be destroyed because of their oppression of the Black masses.

To set them apart from the average, Ali had his followers wear red fezzes and on special occasions even Arabic dress, which proved to be so immensely popular that Blacks outside the movement also took to wearing it as a badge of pride and a perceived way of reclaiming their lost African heritage. But, as seems to always happen in these movements, a fight over the leadership ensued, and Ali was murdered. After his death, the cult broke into a number of competing groups, each with its own "Messiah". And yet it appears the NOI grew out of this movement, at least ideologically.

In his book "Black Muslims in America", author C. Eric Lincoln compared the NOI and the Moorish Science Temples and concluded there was too many similarities for coincedence. The other major influence on the NOI was the Garvey movement. Garvey, referred to by his followers as "The Honorable Marcus Garvey" clearly served as an example for Elijah Muhammad, who also called himself by this title. Garvey's movement was extremely powerful in the 1920's, and had Black working class adherents all over the world. He tapped into the frustration and yet the ambition of Blacks for racial pride, a better way of life, and an end to racial oppression, which was deadly at this time.

Garvey's call for a Black nation-state in Africa or on the shores of North America was electric, along with his exhortation of down-pressed Blacks "rise up and accomplish what you will"[!], to defy white authority with Black militancy fired up the masses, and apparently the possibilities even fired the imagination of one Elijah Poole, later to be known as Elijah Muhammad. It is not known if Muhammad himself was a Garveyite, but the movement was so powerful and so prevalent in the Black community that it could not be ignored; it was the largest mass movement in the history of our people on these shores.

So it is no doubt that many of the NOI's formative ideals were taken from the Garvey movement.And although Garvey's movement was political, rather than wholly religious, his ideals of a Black God and hosts echoed with the religious nationalism of the NOI.

The ideas of Black business enterprise supporting a movement, pushed forward by the Garvey movement, also found a welcome ear in the NOI, which founded a number of such businesses in the 1950's and 60's especially. The leadership cultism of "the Messenger" and now of Farrakhan, directly derive from Garvey, who was extremely fond of pomp and circumstance.

All of this paved the way for the Nation of Islam, and many of the people who entered the ranks of the NOI initially were from these prior movements . In 1930 in Detroit, Fard Muhammad made his appearance in the Black community there, selling silks and other garments "from the East". Fard, a mysterious figure,who has been referred to as" Allah himself" in talks by Elijah Muhammad, was apparently a charismatic figure, who was a spellbinding speaker as well. Fard is supposed to have "disappeared" (some have speculated that he was likely murdered) and left in his place Elijah Muhammad.

Moving to Chicago, Muhammad set up the first Temple, and threw open the doors to potential followers, mostly the lowest level of the Black working class, the "so-called Negroes", who must then make themselves obedient to the "will of Allah". Twenty years passed by and the NOI was just one of a number of marginal Black nationalist forces in cities all over the country. Not a mass movement, when it first started, it really only evolved into one with the emergence and the oratorical skills of Malcolm X in the 1950's. Rising rapidly through the NOI's ranks to become National Minister, Malcolm founded the "Muhammad Speaks" newspaper, the Fruit of Islam security unit, the Harlem Mosque, and in addition was the NOI's main spokesperson and public face for over 10 years.

This proved to be his undoing however, as in a jealous rage, Muhammad and the NOI leadership turned against him, and apparently had a hand in his death, either by establishing the "climate of hate" as Farrakhan admits, or directly murdering him as Malcolm's family and followers have consistently asserted for over 30 years. Either way, he was driven out of the NOI and then killed, in a familiar pattern as with most of these religious cults when there in a serious internal breach.

Is The NOI a "Revolutionary" movement or a Religious Cult?

Some of today's youth, with the example of Malcolm in the NOI and the current militant rhetoric of Farrakhan have called the NOI a "revolutionary movement." However, the truth is that the Nation of Islam is a bourgeois Black nationalist organization, and by that I mean that it promotes Black capitalism, rather than the overthrow of the capitalism system. The NOI is an extremely conservative organization, which puts personal morality and business enterprise in place of a revolutionary program.

Farrakhan is no Malcolm X, even though he has tried to appropriate his speeches and personal style. This man and his movement want to save America. In his book "A Torchlight for America", Farrakhan says the following in a section called appropriately enough "America on the Brink of Anarchy":

"..Without an advocate for the poor, a new state of mind the country lies on the brink of anarchy. Anarchy is the complete absence of government. It's a condition of political disorder, violence and lawlessness in the society. We saw signs of it in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict."

No, what we saw in Los Angles was a perfectly justified REBELLION that middle-class "leaders' Like Farrakhan cannot understand. Hey this guy lives in a mansion, guarded by FOI guards, and makes millions a year scamming the Black community with this type of nonsense. He has nothing in common with these poor folks in South Central L.A., except skin color. This man believes in law and order. Here is what he tells government officials to stave off revolution and what he calls "anarchy":

"..The Nation of Islam can be of assistance. We desire to reason with the political and economic leadership, with the hope of formulating a cooperative effort for the benefit of us all. We want a new relationship in which we can work together for the good of the whole."

What do you think he is talking about here? He wants to sell himself to the white power structure, to keep these low class Niggas in line. That is what he is saying. We are fighting for revolution and he is fighting to prevent it. Oh, you say you don't believe me, well let us continue on with the man's own words. On page 43, this is what he says:

"If we don't make earnest moves toward real solutions, then each day we move one day closer to revolution and anarchy in this country. This is the sad and yet potentially joyous state of America. She stands at the doorway of disaster and yet at the threshold of unlimited progress. It all depends on who is going to guide the country and what kind of guidance he or she will give."

So, you say what's so bad about that comment? Well, I quote it for one reason, and that is to show that Farrakhan has faith in this system and just wants a "wise leader" to rule over us, preferably himself along with the liberal wing of the white ruling class. This guy is just a politician without portfolio, and a poverty pimp in his own right.

So, you think I am distorting his comments, do you? Well, let us press on, not with what I or others have said about him, but with what he has said out of his own mouth. He calls for a right to work policy (page 77-78), which he claims will employ more Blacks, but which experience has shown us is just designed to break organized labor unions and let the rich exploit us that much more. On page 74-75 he calls for "a balanced budget amendment", the same as the right-wing racist Republicans, he just calls his a bill to" enact debt and deficit reduction legislation".

Throughout the book he calls for " sacrifice" by the American people, especially the poor, but not the rich parasites who control this system. He even says that workers should receive "less wages" and that the "Muslim lifestyle" should be studied because it does just that. (see page 81). On page 79, he says that the Fruit of Islam will be glad to ensure "crime-free" communities for a price, and in fact the NOI has been getting millions of dollars in federal government grants and loans for "security" work at poor housing projects. On page 85-87, he asks the government to make an "investment" in the Nation of Islam's 3-year economic plan, and he promises to do away with welfare using "the Muslim lifestyle".

I think I can stop here and safely say that I have proven that the NOI is a conservative, right-wing organization, which despite its militant rhetoric actually believes in and accepts the current state of government. They want "peaceful coexistence with it and are certainly not trying to topple it.

It's like Malcolm X himself once said: "These niggas' ain't trying to build no nation, they're trying to climb back on the plantation". The leadership of the NOI has changed over the several decades of its existence, yet it is still sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-revolutionary, and pro-capitalist. In the final analysis the NOI will not become a serious threat to overthrow the existing government, but will likely defend it from attack!

The only reason that it is having some response to its rhetoric and posturing as being truly "militant" is because the government has destroyed the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary movements from the 1960's and these phonies can step in and murder-mouth. But let them fear this: the revolutionary Black movement is on its way back and it will not be stopped by bullets, bombs, or bald-head Negroes like Khalid Muhammed!

Don't believe the hype!

"Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists. 'Papa Doc' in Haiti is an excellent example of reactionary nationalism. He oppresses the people, but he does promote the African culture. He is against anything other than Black, which on the surface seems very good, but to him it is only to mislead the people. He merely kicked out the racists and replaced them with himself as the oppressor. Many of the nationalists in this country seem to desire the same ends."

--Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party; from a prison interview.