Publisher — 24 February 2009 — by Evan X Hyde
Malcolm X was Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s greatest Minister, but it was Hon. Elijah (The Messenger) who “made” Malcolm, not vice versa. Whatever was strange about some of the Messenger’s teachings, and whatever may have been his sins, the fact of the matter was that his Nation of Islam was the greatest vehicle for black empowerment the United States had seen since the time of Marcus Garvey and his UNIA in the early 1920’s.
Malcolm was a brilliant man, and he began to see the limits of Elijah’s teachings where the matter of police and white supremacist violence against black people was concerned. In addition to that, Malcolm, when he was sent to Los Angeles in 1962 to address an incident involving police violence against Muslims there, and in different situations in Harlem, saw where he had the extraordinary power to direct disciplined Muslims in defence initiatives in the streets. In addition to that, Malcolm was jousting in universities, in radio and television debates, and in other fora with the most capable and sharpest minds of the day both in the United States and abroad, and he had come to understand his own exceptional ability.
When U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, Malcolm, questioned by some reporters, spoke out of turn. Muslim Ministers were not supposed to comment on the assassination, under strict orders from Elijah, but Malcolm told reporters it was a case of “chickens coming home to roost.” In other words, the violence of the American system had been visited upon its own president.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad suspended Malcolm for 90 days as a result of Malcolm’s breach of discipline. It has been said that there were powerful Ministers and officials in the Nation who had become jealous of Malcolm’s fame. If Hon. Elijah consulted any of them about Malcolm’s incendiary statement, then, they would have recommended harsh discipline.
Today, Malcolm’s statement seems almost harmless, but in the American socio-political climate following JFK’s murder, it was incendiary. John Kennedy was young and much loved as a president, and America was in the deepest of mourning when Malcolm spoke.
During his suspension, Malcolm became restless, and he also began to become conscious of his enemies within the Nation of Islam itself. During the process of his break with The Messenger and its aftermath, there is one thing for which I will blame Malcolm. That is, he publicly attacked Hon. Elijah Muhammad, and “publicly” would mean “to the white press,” for sexual misconduct. Yes, Malcolm was desperate and he was under serious fire, but this would have cost him a lot of friends within the Nation.
Inside white America, there is an approach to sexual matters which is indicative of the sexual repression of white American culture. The Monica Lewinsky matter involving U.S. president Bill Clinton would not have been an issue in white countries in Europe or in Asia. In America, it was a huge issue, and Clinton came close to being impeached.
There is a different attitude where sex is concerned in black America, and Malcolm’s public indictment of The Messenger on the grounds of his sexual behaviour would not have gone down well with our people. Malcolm had been a pimp (among other things) in the streets, which is to say, he had lived off the earnings of women. When he became a Muslim, however, he accepted, and adhered to, the very strict moral code of the Nation of Islam in an absolute way. In the Nation, Malcolm was a fanatic. When he heard of the Messenger’s supposed misdeeds, he would have been hurt, and he would have felt betrayed. But Malcolm should not have used this information publicly. This is an opinion I have come to in the last 15 years or so.
Sex is an issue which is so very important in society because the family unit is vital where the raising of our children is concerned. The Christian West has mandated “one man, one wife,” but has seen unprecedented levels of divorce, child molestation, and the incredible rise of pornography in the modern era. Muslim and other societies in Africa and Asia have viewed the family unit in a more integrated, less nuclear way. The subject is a controversial one, and it is an enormously complex one. I cannot discuss it any further in this essay.
In 1964, Malcolm was hurt, and he would have felt betrayed. He had adored the Hon. Elijah Muhammad as a teacher and as a surrogate father. (Malcolm’s own father, a Garveyite, had been killed by the Ku Klux Klan while Malcolm was still a child.) So Malcolm lashed out at Elijah. In the Nation of Islam and in the black community, however, our people do not usually bring up such sins publicly. This is just the way it is. What more can I say?