What is the identity of Malcom X.

Malcolm X - an undigested provocateur of America

For the second time in the history of the United States, this year's inauguration of the American President coincided with Remembrance Day in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrated in the United States on the third Monday in January. Barack Obama paid tribute to the great civil rights activist by taking his oath of two Filed Bibles. One of them belonged to King, who was murdered in 1968. As with his first term in office in 2009, the symbolism of the redeemer was immediate: the swearing-in of the first black president on the steps of the Capitol was celebrated by progressive America like the fulfillment of the dream of a post-racist society proclaimed by King in 1963.

Paranoid rumors about Obama

In contrast, the staging of Obama's two inauguration celebrations avoided any reference to another protagonist of the Afro-American struggle for freedom, who had impressed Obama at a young age: "His repeated changes appealed to me," wrote Obama in his autobiographical notes, "An American Dream" about Malcolm X. For his famous autobiography, the future politician noted the "unpolished poetry of his words, his unconditional demand for respect."

Unlike Martin Luther King, Malcolm X's ideas never matured into a coherent vision. But this statement does not explain why Malcolm X is also largely negatively associated in Obama's America. Sohail Daulatzai, the author of a book about Malcolm X * published at the end of 2012, argues that in the USA it is still often enough to be black to be considered "un-American". But black and Muslim are often classified as "anti-American". The paranoid rumors about the origin and religion of the current president illustrate the mistrust of black followers of Islam and the fact that Malcolm X has been shaping this image of the enemy to this day: Not just the fairy tale Obama's a Muslim stubbornly lingers in conspiracy-obsessed circles, along with the rumor that Malcolm X is his father.

Untypical of American research on Malcolm X, which primarily focuses on his role in the black people's struggle for equality, Daulatzai places Malcolm X in the history of Afro-American solidarity with the Third World. Indeed, Malcolm X pursued the internationalization of the Afro-American cause by linking it with the anti-colonial movements of the Third World. The common belief in Allah offered the black minority in the USA as a bridge to a "global majority" of fellow believers.

Islam made in America

But Malcolm X found "Islam" through the Nation of Islam (NOI), a sect that freely used an Islamic vocabulary, but actually shared little in belief and practice with other Muslims. The “Black muslims”, as they were popularly known, achieved a high level of awareness in the 1950s, especially thanks to the militant “Black power” rhetoric of their spokesman Malcolm X, also outside the USA. In 1959 the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser invited a delegation from the NOI to Cairo in 1959. When Cassius Clay alias Muhammad Ali converted to NOI shortly after his first world title in heavyweight boxing, the Islamic world took notice

The more the Nation of Islam gained international recognition and expanded its relationships with Muslims from Africa and the Middle East, the more their interest in the extremely unorthodox doctrine of black Muslims from America grew. The fact that Allah manifested himself in the Nation of Islam in the slums of Detroit in the 1930s and designated Elijah Poole (later called Elijah Muhammed) as his prophet, as the NOI taught at the time, is hardly to be accepted by Muslims outside the USA have been. Little is known about the perception of the sect and its most famous figure Malcolm X in Muslim countries at the time.

Murder of a renegade

Malcolm X traveled - mainly after his separation from the group - for months through Arab and African countries, gave interviews, met heads of government and members of the opposition. In 1964 he was an official guest of the Saudi government on his pilgrimage to Mecca. In Egypt he trained at Azhar University and then spent several months visiting Lebanon, Gaza, Kuwait, Tunisia, Sudan and several black African countries. Contacts with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were illegal under Nasser, are documented. What did his hosts think of the religious ideas of the Black Muslims?

At the age of 39, Malcolm X was shot and killed at close range on the podium while giving a speech in Harlem, New York in 1965. A jury found three members of the NOI guilty of the murder, but this verdict did not want to clarify the case completely: Two of the three convicts denied their guilt, the third never clarified who had commissioned him. The Nation of Islam officially disavowed any involvement, but made no attempt to hide its satisfaction at the apostate's death.

Revolutionary provocateur

Louis X, in particular, who still leads the NOI under the name of Louis Farrakhan today, put it on record that the murdered man “deserved to die”. The New York Police Department was charged with gross errors in the day of the murder and in securing evidence, and many supporters of Malcolm X suspected the American government of having played an active role. The FBI had always followed Malcolm X while traveling abroad.

His authenticity lies in his development from orphan to petty criminal to indoctrinated sect spokesman, who provoked the American public with his demonization of whites and his idea of ​​secession of blacks. Although he most recently differentiated his ideas through his conversion to Orthodox Islam, the memory of the rejection of his bourgeois identity (his baptismal name was Malcolm Little), his contempt for Christianity as the religion of slave owners, and his distrust of Christianity still predominate in the American mainstream the coexistence of the white and black ethnic groups sought by the civil rights movement.


* Sohail Daulatzai: Black Star, Crescent Moon. The Muslim International and Black Freedom Beyond America, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.