Khalid Muhammad was the former leader of Nation of Islam (NOI), which is a radical black nationalist movement founded in the last century. This organization has close links with the New Black Panther Party, which is distinct from the original party of the Black Power movement. Khalid Muhammad is right about many of the grievances against mainstream America. Starting from the education system and continuing into judicial, legislative and executive institutions, the systems prevailing in the United States undermines progress and equality for blacks and other minorities. This is most evident from the high rates of incarceration and conviction of blacks. I also agree with Khalid Muhammad view that the white dominated American society had obliterated the native, indigenous cultural, religious and linguistic heritage of black Americans of African descent. In his interviews with talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Phil Donahue, Muhammad iterates the founding principles of Nation of Islam and its affiliated institutions.
The adoption of Islam as an alternative to Christianity is an effective political strategy, as it undermines the strength of the Christian right-wing. Of all the minority groups, African Americans show the greatest inclination to convert to Islam and there is sound logic behind this. In the early years of European colonization of the North American continent, the black slaves that were imported into the region did not have a choice but to adopt the religion of their masters, which was overwhelmingly Christian. The black slaves were taught the idea that the freedoms and rights that they were denied in their natural life would be compensated for in the heavenly after-life. The Christian belief in the concept of heaven and attainment of salvation toward that end was used as a tool of suppression against blacks. Hence, I believe that the black American community has genuine grounds for discontent against mainstream institutions such as the Church. In this context, the founding idea behind the Nation of Islam serves the twin purposes of being politically subversive and a movement for emancipation.
Some of the hostility directed against Khalid Muhammad is unwarranted. This is most evident in the interview he gave to Sean Hannity, who has strong associations with ultra-right-wing media houses. As I listened to the interview, the hostility and contempt that Hannity showed toward Muhammad became obvious to me. Sean Hannity showed no sympathy for the cause of Nation of Islam and was unduly critical of Muhammad. The interview only served to underline the persisting threats to black emancipation in the form of Christian right-wing agenda for world domination. If at all there is criticism to be leveled against Khalid Muhammad and his ideas, it is the black supremacist rhetoric that is sometimes manifest. Blacks have a legitimate cause in demanding for equal rights and opportunities in the United States. But it would be unreasonable to demand for a separate state for blacks or other arrangements of independence from whites. This criticism is also applicable to the New Black Panther Party, which adopts a black nationalist political agenda. I personally believe that an amicable transition to meaningful equality between the races could be achieved without resorting to such drastic alternatives. As the election of Barack Obama shows, progress and change is possible within the American mainstream and institutions like the Nation of Islam should abandon their separatist agenda and should work toward greater integration with the mainstream. Apart from this radical element in Khalid Muhammad’s agenda for the black community, much of the grievances and discontentment expressed by him are quite legitimate.
Sean Hannity interviews Khalid Muhammad, retrieved from YouTube.com on 10th December 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jXkX1it8w0>
Phil Donahue interviews Khalid Muhammad, retrieved from YouTube.com on 10th December 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56RcSbxuXjA>