“Facing Race: Muslims and Islam” Series: YES, WHITE PEOPLE ARE DEVILS. YES, THAT INCLUDES ME.


GOATMILK introduces its original and exclusive month long series entitled “Facing Race: Muslims and Islam” featuring diverse Muslim writers from around the world discussing race, ethnicity, prejudice, stereotyping and multiculturalism in the post 9-11 world.

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YES, WHITE PEOPLE ARE DEVILS. YES, THAT INCLUDES ME.

By Michael Muhammad Knight

No, I don’t believe in Yacub, the evil scientist who grafted the devil from the Original Man, or the 23 wise scientists who trained Master Fard Muhammad to end the devil’s 6,000-year rule; nor do I believe that Elijah Muhammad is alive on the Mothership. These are myths, like our myth of the Prophet flying into space on a horse. But they’re true in a way that runs deeper than facts.

I didn’t see it at the time, but my teen conversion to Sunni Islam was, in part, an attempt to undo whiteness. I loved Malcolm’s righteous anger, the way that he damned everything in my world, making Islam my teen rebellion. While immersed in Malcolm’s autobiography and Public Enemy lyrics, I met my father for the first time. When he turned out to be a white supremacist who threw around the N-word and professed racial separatism, it proved to me the truth of Malcolm—which was, of course, the truth of his teacher, Elijah Muhammad.

I could only access Malcolm, however, through his short life after breaking with Elijah—when he went to Mecca, experienced transcendent brotherhood with Muslims of all colors, and joined the larger Islamic tradition. Islam, Malcolm promised, was the only solution to America’s race problem. Inspired by his autobiography, I formally became Muslim at a Sunni mosque in Rochester, New York, and in my senior year of high school spent two months studying at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Absorbed in Sunni Islam, I would not have accepted Elijah Muhammad or Louis Farrakhan as Muslims, but eventually found cracks in Malcolm’s fairy tale. In terms of racism, the Middle East lagged a century behind America. Bahrain had only abolished its slave trade in 1937; Kuwait, 1947; Qatar, 1952; Yemen, 1962; the United Arab Emirates, 1963; Oman, 1970. Saudi Arabia had officially abolished slavery just two years before Malcolm’s pilgrimage, but still possessed a slave population of 300,000 and executed its captured runaways. In July 1965, less than six months after Malcolm’s assassination, a United Nations report revealed that King Ibn Sa’ud still possessed hundreds of slaves.

More challenging than the crimes of kings and nation-states was the existence of racial inequality at the very core of our tradition, with narrations of the Prophet himself owning black slaves. Classical Shi’a texts quoted Ali as warning against marriage with black people, since they were a “distorted creation,” and an 18th-century Maliki jurist had said that only unbelievers would claim that the Prophet was black. In stories still included in the Saudi books today, pre-Islamic goddesses such as al-Uzza are portrayed as deranged black women, pulling out their hair in grief when their idols are smashed.

When it came to the disease of racism, I learned that Islamic authenticity was not attached to moral authority. Louis Farrakhan has something for the “real” Muslims, if they’d listen to him. In summer 2008, I returned to Pakistan, and learned from the billboards and my own reception on the streets that Pakistan remains a white supremacist country; I could be God there if I wanted it. In December, I made my own hajj to Mecca, and overheard an Arab mocking a black man as “Abd” (slave) outside the Haram on a Friday afternoon. Sorry, Malcolm, the fairy tale’s dead. The answer to white supremacy isn’t Arab supremacy.

If a religion’s purpose is to explain the presence of evil in the world, Elijah Muhammad has done his job, even teaching some devils. Reading whiteness as a social construct, the Nation of Islam’s teachings become an appropriate response to American history. If you’re born white in a white supremacist society, and you inherit that privilege and negative culture, then yes, you’re the devil. Take out the Yacub stuff and the spaceships, and Elijah Muhammad makes perfect sense. The myths just dress it up, telling the truth with fiction.

Elijah’s son, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed touched on this when, during his reform of the Nation towards mainstream Islam, he spoke of white devilry as a “mindstate.” Islam, Malcolm told me in his autobiography, removed the “white” from Caucasians’ minds. Minister Farrakhan has also stated that the problem was not white skin, but a mentality that created real devils when used as the basis for a social order.

For some time, I’ve been dipping into the Nation of Islam’s initiatory text, the Supreme Wisdom Lessons, a series of question-answer dialogues between Elijah Muhammad and his teacher, Master Fard Muhammad. And I build with the Five Percenters, a movement that began in 1960s Harlem with a man named Allah. A former member of the Nation of Islam, Allah left the mosque and began sharing the Lessons with youths on the streets.

Though the Lessons taught that devils could not be reformed, Allah took a white student under his wing, a teenager who he named Azreal. According to Five Percenter tradition, Allah gave Azreal the “keys to heaven and hell,” allowing him to come and go as he pleased. Nearing 60 and still in the movement, Azreal loves to tell stories about Allah. After watching civil rights demonstrators on TV getting sprayed with fire hoses, Azreal came crying to Allah that he was ashamed of being white. Allah told him that he could not be blamed for his skin. “Allah loved everybody,” Azreal told the New York Times in 1969, after Allah’s assassination.

Whiteness studies pioneer Noel Ignatiev famously called to “abolish the white race.” He didn’t mean physical genocide. The way that I read him, Ignatiev comes off like a Muslim Son putting in his 35-50 (read your Lessons). Allah had reportedly said that when god and devil walked hand in hand, there was no longer a devil. A respected elder of the Five Percent once told me that if I was righteous, I couldn’t be called a devil. In his own Mecca, Harlem, Allah had experienced a rebirth similar to Malcolm’s hajj experience. Like Malcolm, he gave the snake a chance.

Ignatiev declared, “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” My engagement of the Five Percenters sometimes feels like a ritualization of that treason, the surrendering of this devil’s head. It’s also my own heritage as an American Muslim, a gift that I wish I could give to the rest of the Muslim world: here, take Master Fard Muhammad. Take the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Take this man named Allah. You need them as much as us.

Michael Muhammad Knight is author of The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop, and the Gods of New York.

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17 thoughts on ““Facing Race: Muslims and Islam” Series: YES, WHITE PEOPLE ARE DEVILS. YES, THAT INCLUDES ME.

  1. I’ve read a couple of Muhammad’s books and I really like them (Blue Eyed Devil & 5%ers) but I must ask: why did Muhammad go to Mecca? Why did he return to Pakistan? I can tell you all that Muhammad has said about the Muslim world from my computer in suburbia. The local masjid will furnish you evidence of this racism. I won’t be going to Mecca. Nor will I return to the local masjid. And it’s not because of racism. It’s because of sexism.

  2. Wait a minute!!! I KNOW this guy! Last I saw him he was babbling on and on about going into politics, etc., but first he was going to get a real good tan…

    I think he was of Scottish descent or something…
    Right. O’Bummer! Derek O’Bummer the ol’ bastard!

  3. I am a member of the Sacred Movement and we are taught about the fraud of racism purposely created to divid and conquer. The Willie Lynch Doctrine did not start with Willie Lynch. The real criminal elite of this planet are now looking to get rid of the white race the same way they tried to eliminate the black race. These devils don’t care what race they use to do their devilishment. As a matter of fact, most of them (as we refer to as “the Unknowns”) are mostly likely black.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=jose+m.+paulino

  4. Mr. Knight – I have your book about the Five Percenters. Thank you for doing that work, its fascinating. Now I have to ask you some things.

    Having studied history, where do you see Islamic cultures being less flawed than any others? I’m not talking about what’s written in the Koran or Quran. I’m talking about historical realities.

    As far as skin color goes, how do you explain violence across the board? Rape everywhere, genocide everywhere, Japanese, Congolese, Iraqi, German, etc. How do you confine evil to just one race?

  5. i have read the above article with interest.learned author seems little confused over the race barrier.he is not sharp to project the islam as it ,instead;assumes the islam merely seeing the conduct of muslims. he defintely needs much patience to understand the real islam as is propounded in shariah; holy quran as also the hadith; rest; what is written by him could be treated his own intellectuall fiction.thx

  6. Ur the most retarded person.
    Serious. Go check out the real world sometime. U r the devil, but not because it white, but because I think u ACTUALLY believe this disgusting, ignorant horse shit ur puttin out in the world.

  7. yeah you ignorant fool a soul and a spirit have no color and if god didnt want us to be different then he wouldnt have made us so and anyone who believes this nonsense that white people are devils then ask yourself a few simple question for instance who is the peace makers and why are we less racist of all races yet were supposed to be evil you guys are sick and i hope you die a miserable death for trying to torture peoples minds and displacing thier souls evil slime

  8. This s is utter lies. God Jesus and the Holy Spirit will guide you. All you have to do is ask him to come into your heart. God created u and its up to evry individual to become good or evil. Its called free will. Evil is seen in every color. this is based off of nonsense. God separated us at tower of Babel. Regardless of our differences we all shed same color blood.

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