Malcolm X’s birthday is over. Muslims everywhere celebrated his life. But when are we going to try and pick up where he left off? Malcolm X was a man who believed that, “the most fertile area for Islam in the West is the Black American. “ In order to plant and harvest such seeds, this inherently necessitated a ministry which addressed the theological, political, and spiritual needs of black people.
Today, Black Muslims, (with the exception of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan), have through deliberately flawed actions, inactions, and theological apathy to addressing the spiritual needs of black people residing in the most disenfranchised ghettos have rendered themselves completely irrelevant in the black community with little to no social and political capital.
It would appear that the more classically educated a Black Muslim is in traditional Islamic sciences, the more likely such a Black Muslim is to be working outside of those disenfranchised, impoverished, crime-ridden, black communities which Malcolm X believed were fertile areas for Islam.
There is a Black Islamic brain whereby Islamic knowledge is actively going outside the Black community. As a result, the Islamic thought of mainstream America has, in fact, had little engagement with black political thought to which Malcolm X was fully acquainted with and to which his entire ministry addressed.
A textbook case of this is from American Muslim leader, Hamza Yusuf, who is considered to be one of the most influential America Muslim scholars. In a statement which is not to be confused with his infamous comments made at the reviving Islamic Spirit Conference but in a separate incident, mentions how several white people including his mother fought in the civil rights movement before lamenting about the ‘reverse racism’ of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Ubenowkest to Hamza Yusuf, Islam in the black American experience exemplified by Malcolm X and Safiya Bukhari stood firmly at odds with accepting civil rights reformism as a satisfactory redress to black suffering.
Black people en-masse turned to Islamic movements because it offered them an alternative to civil rights reformism which denied blacks any possibility of ‘freedom’ outside the confines of liberalism.
While many American Muslim leaders such as Hamza Yusuf can wax poetically about the European philosophy of Nietzsche, Aristotle, Plato, and Kant, the reality is, there has been a complete lack of engagement of American Islamic thought with political philosophy concerning black people such as Afropessemism, Black Nihilism, and internal colonialism.
This lack of engagement with black political thought has lead to the mainstream American Muslim establishment pursuing reactionary politics that cozies up to civil rights reformism.
Black Muslims need a liberation theology that maintains the black Islamic tradition of viewing civil rights reformism as inadequate redress to black suffering and is grounded in a solid political education that will enable a Qu’ranic rooted struggle against the prison industrial complex, gang violence, and the litany of social ills impact the black community. Black Muslims cannot do this under the tutelage of shaykhs who sound like the typical clueless white liberal when discussing the oppression of black people.
In his classic book, Black Awakening in Capitalist America, black political philosopher argues that the relationship of the “black ghetto” to America can be akin to the relationship of a mother country to its colony. If this is the case, those of us from these ghettoes or internal colonies are essentially outside of the “mainstream” American Muslim community. While, Muslims are cognizant of Malcolm X but they must also become acquainted with Detroit Red who emerged from one of these internal colonies.
Detroit Red, Internal Colonialism & The Forgotten Ummah!
Detroit Red was once the street name of Malcolm X; he was a hustler, dope addict, drug dealer, and a burglar. In this critical period, Muslims must ask themselves: what are the political conditions which produced Detroit Red and did the reformist politics of the Civil Rights Movement eviscerate those political conditions?
The reality is: despite the reform of the civil rights movement, black people continue to be persecuted and oppressed only in new and innovative ways. There are millions of people just like Detroit Red who are trapped in the most oppressive internal colonies.
Detroit Reds are produced because even in the post-civil rights era there continues to be obstacles that were, and still are, put in the place to halt block socioeconomic aspiration. This results in the acquiring of detrimental social and economic habits which feeds the urban black sub-proletariat into the prison industrial complex.
According to sociologist Wacquant, the systemic hyper incarceration of black men is due to their needing to be “a human warehouse for the segments of urban society deemed disreputable, derelict, and dangerous.” Structural racism in the United States produces “Detroit Reds” among the urban black sub-proletariat. However, Islam, when spread among the black sub-proletariat transforms “Detroit Reds” into Malcolm X’s.
This Islam of Rafiq, a former gang leader in Chicago’s outside who said,” “If it hadn’t been for Islam, man, I’d probably be dead.” This is Islam of the friend Tupac sung about in his song I aint Mad At Cha,” Oh you a Muslim now? No more dope game. I lost my little homie, he’s a changed man.” This is the Islam of my uncle of who a Muslim behind prison bars.
It is these black Muslims in the internal colonies of America who are essentially the “forgotten ummah.” These individuals do not have the financial resources to attend the various Islamic seminaries in America. For these summer Islamic educational institutes are largely designed for wealthy immigrant Muslims who developed a guilty conscious for neglecting to pursue Islamic knowledge as they pursued careers as doctors, engineers and lawyers.
These black Muslims in internal colonies are so isolated from classical Islamic scholarship that they may not ever have the educational resources to acquire formal Islamic education. For what Shaykhs or Muftis come to their hood? The few Muslims who are in their hood do not come to teach people Arabic but to sell lottery tickets, wine, and alcohol. Yet, it is these individuals who despite their lack of formal islamic studies best embody the spirit of Islam. Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X involves directly empowering them with Islamic knowledge.
Reviving the Islamic Agenda of Malcolm X
Islamic scholarship must be produced working to advance Islamic solutions to gang violence which is taking the lives of young black men, women, and children everyday. Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X would involve studying the Prophetic biography and analyzing how the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) initiated negotiations and mitigated conflicts between warring Arab tribes and extracting principles and lessons from that to guide us as we seek to resolve conflicts between warring black gangs in the black community.
Reviving the Islamic agenda involve producing Islamic scholarship advancing Islamic solutions for putting an end to the prison industrial complex which is mass incarcerating black men at levels unprecedented levels in human history and tearing families apart.
Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X means we cannot waste time assuaging white fears about Islam but have ministries that seek to spiritually uplift those black brothers in the most wretched and impoverished neighborhoods where the common employment is not working 9 to 5 but where the brothers are grinding with an entrepreneurial zeal at the trap house attempting to survive.
Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X would mean seeking to spiritually uplift those poor single black mothers working overtime struggling to provide food for her children.
Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X means establishing Black Muslim think tanks addressing Black Orientalism seeking to drive a wedge between Islam and black liberation, and he would be producing Islamic scholarship working to give Islamic responses to the latest philosophical developments in black thought such as Afropessmism and Black Nihilism.
Reviving the Islamic agenda of Malcolm X means not settling for a career being a khateeb from one Muslim immigrant mega-mosque to the next, but being in the most decadent, ostracized, black communities exhausting ourselves letting them know how in following the example of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) their lives and communities can be absolutely transformed for the better.
This is the unfinished theological mission of Malcolm X and we must do all that we can to ensure that his mission of Islamic empowerment of the black community is carried on to its completion.