This is a time when many of us remember the martyrdom of Malcolm X, El-Haj Malik El-Shabazz, on 21 February 1965.
The evolution of his development towards Islam is worthy of study as to how an individual can come to terms with oppression and how it might best be resisted.
The depth of white supremacist ideology in the United States has not been fully understood by those outside that divided nation, perhaps more divided now than it was in the period of the Civil Rights Movement.
The attitudes of the Nation of Islam of Elijah Muhammad can be understood from the viewpoint of visceral reaction to oppression, but they were not in accord with the teachings of the Quran or the example of the Prophet (s).
Malcolm’s Letter from Mecca, with which millions of Muslims are familiar, is a valid illustration of the evolution of his Islamic consciousness.
Letter from Mecca – Malcolm X
“For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors……
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white’–but the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”
As he developed his awareness of the nature of oppression he broadened from a focus on the USA to its universal characteristics.
His extended journeys through Africa and the Middle East in that year of his Haj brought him into contact with people who had the same experience as him.
He saw that oppression had similar roots throughout the world.
He understood that the struggle of the African-Americans for civil rights should be transformed into a struggle for international human rights.
Such consciousness, such awareness, combined with his charismatic personality and the extent of his support in the American community made him a threat to powerful interests.
Malcolm also came to understand that anger was no basis for clarity of vision, echoing the message of Islam as conveyed by Prophet Muhammad (s) 1400 years before.
Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested and found guilty of the killing but two have since repeatedly asserted they were framed. That is not impossible given the racist atmosphere of the time.
Whoever carried out the murder, Congress of Racial Equality Chairman James Farmer is convinced that it was a political assassination.
There is no doubt that the J Edgar Hoover FBI made war against the civil rights movement, and it established COINTEL to disrupt and destroy a wide range of protest groups.
The Zinn Education Project March 2016 ran an article “Why We Should Teach About the FBI’s War on the Civil Rights Movement” which details the methods used.
It has been hidden from most Americans.
As Garret Felber of the Malcolm X Project wrote on the 50th anniversary of the assassination: “It is time to for a new investigation into the assassination of this civil rights leader that will lay to rest the lingering questions about the case, and ensure that all those involved have been brought to justice.” [22 Feb 2015 The Guardian]