Nation of Islam strengthens community’s black unity
The Nation of Islam is a pillar of the black community. Outside of having a strong religious quality, it also serves to continuously allow progress in that community.
The NOI is prominent, from the introduction of black intellect to the strengthening of community and the progression of the culture.
I spoke with one committed member of the NOI, accounting senior Khallid Muhammad.
Muhammad’s parents are from Los Angeles, where they first came into contact with the Nation. They were selling papers, specifically the Nation’s newspaper The Final Call. After they met, they converted, so Muhammad was born and raised in the Nation.
During his pre-K through fifth-grade years, Muhammad went to a Muslim school. After moving to Houston, he started going to private schools.
“Things were different,” Muhammad said. “Like standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance and Christian holidays. At that time, I started to think I was weird.”
That weirdness came from the huge shift in environment based on Muhammad’s religion, but it is something a lot of black students of all ages can relate to. According to Pew Research Center, 81 percent of black college students say they have faced discrimination.
The mostly-white composition of most colleges, aside form historically black colleges and universities, does not help that discrimination.
The NOI, just like all movements and religions, has integral leaders who are either direct liaisons for the Nation or simply represent in well in their everyday lives.
“Elijah Muhammad started it all,” Muhammad said, referring to the man who leaded the NOI from the 1930s until his death in 1975. “Without him, there would be no Malcolm, no Muhammad Ali, Dr. Khalid, or Minister Louis Farrakhan.”
Before Elijah Muhammad, people never thought about the black man as god or heard that kind of language, he said. Elijah Muhammad was a black man spreading teachings from a Afrocentric frame of reference. It put black people first in the minds of themselves and always advocated for the betterment of the community and no one else.
“He gave us that sense that it’s great to black,” Muhammad said.
The first major effort for black unity in modern times was seen in the ’60 and ’70s with the Civil Rights Movement. One of the greatest civil rights leaders, Malcolm X, was part of the Nation of Islam. His teachings were rooted in black power, which at its core is meant to bring the black community together and make it self-sustainable.
That installation of self-esteem and pride in one’s people was important for the black community. Now there are people like “Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali, who presents his Muslim beliefs openly. In a new, changing social climate, we see advocates more prominently — people like activist DeRay McKesson, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Jesse Williams.
Although McKesson, Coates and Williams are not part of the NOI, the relatable way they speak to other black people is similar to that of the Nation.
“In books that I have read, they’re not Muslims themselves, but they have used the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to help black people,” Muhammad said.
The Nation works for one common goal: to support and uplift its people. You can still see black unity today, from the renewed civil rights movement of Black Lives Matter and an overall acceptance of the LGBTQ community. It lives in black people for the sake of being black, despite any superficial differences.
“When it’s all said and done, it’s all about unity,” Muhammad said. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, ‘Our unity is greater than an atomic bomb.'”
Opinion Editor Dana C. Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]