By Malcolm X and Al-Muslimoon Staff (from the Malcolm X Museum)
Note: This set of responses to written questions from the Arabic-language monthly Al-Muslimoon, published by the Islamic Center in Geneva, Switzerland, is the last record of Malcolm's thinking. He wrote most of the responses the night of the fire-bombing of his home and wrote the last two as he sat in a Manhattan hotel the night before his death.
AL-MUSLIMOON: The Black Muslim Movement is one of the most controversial movements in the United States. Having been for a considerable period [of time] its main organizer and most prominent spokesman, could you kindly give us some concise firsthand picture of the background of this movement, its history, its main ethics and its actual strength?
MALCOLM X: Elijah Muhammad allowed himself to become insanely jealous of my own popularity, which went even beyond his own followers and into the non-Muslim community, while his own prestige and influence was limited largely among his immediate followers. While I was still in the movement and blind to his faults by my own uncompromising faith in him, I always thought the jealousy and envy which I saw -- constant signs of was stemming mainly and only from his immediate family, and it was quite shocking to me whenever members of his own family would warn me that it was their father (Elijah Muhammad himself) who had become almost insane with jealousy.
When Elijah learned that his son Wallace had told me how his father had seduced his teenage secretaries (by telling them that he was the prophet Muhammad, and making each of them think she was to be his favorite and most beautiful wife Aisha) Elijah feared that my position of influence in the movement was a threat to him and his other children who were now controlling the movement and benefiting from its wealth. Because they feared my popularity with the rank-and-file Muslims, they were careful about any immediate or open move to curtail my authority without good cause, so they patiently waited until they felt that my statement about the late President Kennedy's assassination would give them the proper public support in any kind of action they'd take to curtail or remove me.
At the time they announced I was to be suspended and silenced for ninety days, they had already set in motion the machinery to have me completely ousted from the movement, and Elijah Muhammad himself had already given the order to have me killed because he feared I would expose to his followers the secret of his extreme immorality.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Should these differences be of a basically ethical nature and on essential matters of faith? What, in your opinion, are the prospects of radical reform within Elijah Muhammad's followers now or in the future?
MALCOLM X: No, Elijah Muhammad himself will never change. At least I doubt it. He's too old, dogmatic, and has already gone too far in teaching that he is a greater prophet than Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He is too proud to confess to his followers now that he has deliberately taught them falsehood. But as his well-meaning followers become exposed to the true religion of Islam, they themselves will leave him and practice Islam as it should be. This is why it is so important for centers to be established immediately where true Islam can be taught. And these centers should be located at this time primarily in Black communities, because at this particular time the American Blacks are the ones showing the most interest in [the] true religion.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Have any of Elijah Muhammad's followers left the movement with you, and do you think that your breakaway from the movement has affected its main body in any considerable way?
MALCOLM X: Yes, many of Elijah's followers could not go along with his present immorality, and this opened their eyes to the other falsities of his doctrine. But we have not been able to regroup and reorganize them as we should. It takes finance, and we left all treasuries and properties with Elijah, and he uses this wealth that we amassed for him to fight us and keep us from getting organized. He is fanatically opposed to American Negroes hearing true Islam, and has ordered his own well meaning followers to cripple or kill anyone of his followers who wants to leave him to follow true Islam. He fears that true Islam will expose and destroy the power of his false teachings.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Do you plan to just stop at voicing your opposition against Elijah Muhammad and his group or do you have any course of action in mind towards establishing some new organization in the field? If so, on what basis and for what specific near or distant goals?
MALCOLM X: With what little finance we could raise, we have founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., with headquarters here in Harlem. Our sole interest is to help undo the distorted image [that] we have helped spread about Islam. Our mosque also is for those who want to learn how to live the life of a true Muslim.
However, since we live as Black Americans in a white racist society, we have established another organization which is non-religious, known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and which is designed to unite all Black Americans regardless of their religious affiliation into a group that can fight against American racism and the economic, political, and social evils that stem from white racism here in this American society. With the Muslim Mosque we are teaching our people a better way of life, and with the OAAU we are fighting on an even broader level for complete respect and recognition as human beings for all Black Americans, and we are ready and willing to use any means necessary to see that this goal is reached.
AL-MUSLIMOON: What have you been actually doing since you broke away from Elijah Muhammad's movement?
MALCOLM X: I have traveled to the Middle East and Africa twice since leaving Elijah Muhammad in March of 1964, mainly to get a better understanding of Islam and the African countries, and in turn to give the Muslim world a better understanding of problems facing those of us here in America who are trying to become Muslims. Also, in Africa to give our people there a better understanding of the problems confronting Black Americans in our struggle for human rights.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Is it true that even after your breakaway from Elijah Muhammad you still hold the Black color as a main base and dogma for your drive under the banner of liberation in the United States? How could a man of your spirit, intellect, and worldwide outlook fail to see in Islam its main characteristic, from its earliest days, as a message that confirms beyond doubt the ethnological oneness and quality of all races, thus striking at the very root of the monstrosity of racial discrimination. Endless are the texts of the Qu'ran (Koran) and prophetic sayings to this effect and nothing would testify to that more than the historic fact that heterogeneous races, nations, and linguistic entities have always mingled peacefully in the homeland.
MALCOLM X: As a Black American I do feel that my first responsibility is to my twenty-two million fellow Black Americans who suffer the same indignities because of their color as I do. I don't believe my own personal problem is ever solved until the problem is solved for all twenty-two million of us.
Much to my dismay, until now, the Muslim world has seemed to ignore the problem of the Black American, and most Muslims who come here from the Muslim world have concentrated more effort in trying to convert white Americans than Black Americans.
(Note by Malcolm X to Al-Muslimoon editors: I had arrived back in the States from London at 4:30 p.m. on February 13, and had worked until 12:30 -- just after midnight -- on the above. I got very tired at midnight, decided to leave the above pages in the typewriter and finish early in the morning. I retired at 12:30 and exploding bombs that were thrown into my home by would be murderers rocked me and my wife and four baby daughters from sleep at 2:30 a.m. Only Allah saved us from death. This is only one of the many examples of the extremes to which the enemies of Islam will go to see that true Islam is never established on these shores. And they know that if I was so successful in helping to spread Elijah Muhammad's distorted version of Islam, it is even easier for me to organize the spread of true Islam.)
There are two groups of Muslims in America: (1) those who were born in the Muslim world and migrated here, and were already Muslims when they arrived here. lf these total over 200,000, they have not succeeded in converting 1,000 Americans to Islam. (2) American-born persons who have been converted to Islam are 98 percent Black Americans. Up to now it has been only the Black American who has shown interest even in Sunni Islam.
If a student of agriculture has sense enough to concentrate his farming efforts on the most fertile area of his farm, I should think the Muslim world would realize that the most fertile area for Islam in the West is the Black American. This in no way implies discrimination or racialism, but rather shows that we are intelligent enough to plant the good seed of Islam where it will grow best; later on we can "doctor up" or fertilize the less fertile areas, but only after our crop is already well planted in the heart and mind of these Black Americans who already show great signs of receptiveness. Was it not Bilal, the Black Ethiopian, who was [one of] the first to receive the seed of Islam from the Prophet himself in Arabia 1,400 years ago?
AL-MUSLIMOON: Now that you have visited and revisited many Muslim countries, what are your major impressions regarding Islam and Muslims both in the present and in the future?
MALCOLM X: We are standing at the threshold of the nuclear age. Education is a must, especially in this highly technical era. In my opinion, Muslim religious leaders have not stressed the importance of education to the Muslim communities, especially in African countries. Thus when African countries become independent, the non-Muslim areas have the higher degree of educated Africans who are thus the ones best qualified to occupy the newly created positions in government. Muslim religious leaders of today need a more well-rounded type of education and then they will be able to stress the importance of education to the masses, but ofttimes when these religious leaders themselves have very limited knowledge, education, and understanding, sometimes they purposely keep their own people also ignorant in order to continue their own personal position of leadership. They keep the people narrow-minded because they themselves are narrow-minded.
In every Middle East or African country I have visited, I noticed the country is as '"advanced" as its women are, or as backward as its women. By this I mean, in areas where the women have been pushed into the background and kept without education, the whole area or country is just as backward, uneducated, and "underdeveloped." Where the women are encouraged to get education and play a more active role in the allaround affairs of the community and the country, the entire people are more active, more enlightened, and more progressive. Thus, in my opinion, the Muslim religious leaders of today must re-evaluate and spell out with clarity the Muslim position on education in general and education for women in particular. And then a vast program must be launched to elevate the standard of education in the Muslim world. An old African proverb states: "Educate a man and you educate an individual; educate a woman and you educate an entire family."
AL-MUSLIMOON: Africa seems to have captured most of your attention and eager concern. Why? And now that you have visited almost every part of it, where do you think Islam actually stands? And what, in your opinion, could be done to save it from both the brainlessness of many, or rather most of those who are considered to be the champions of its cause, and from the malicious, resourceful alliance of Zionism, atheism, and religious fanaticism against Islam?
MALCOLM X: I regard Africa as my fatherland. I am primarily interested in seeing it become completely free of outside political and economic influence that has dominated and exploited it. Africa, because of its strategic position, faces a real crisis. The colonial vultures have no intention of giving it up without a fight. Their chief weapon is still "divide and conquer." In East Africa there is a strong anti-Asian feeling being nourished among the Africans. In West Africa there is a strong anti-Arab feeling. Where there are Arabs or Asians there is a strong anti-Muslim feeling.
These hostilities are not initiated by the above-mentioned people who are involved. They have nothing to benefit from fighting among themselves at this point. Those who benefit most are the former colonial masters who have now supplanted the hated colonialism and imperialism with Zionism. The Zionists have outstripped all other interest groups in the present struggle for our mother continent. They use such a benevolent, philanthropic approach that it is quite difficult for their victims to see through their schemes. Zionism is even more dangerous than communism because it is made more acceptable and is thus more destructively effective.
Since the Arab image is almost inseparable from the image of Islam, the Arab world has a multiple responsibility that it must live up to. Since Islam is a religion of brotherhood and unity those who take the lead in expounding this religion are duty-bound to set the highest example of brotherhood and unity. It is imperative that Cairo and Mecca (the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Muslim World League) have a religious "summit" conference and show a greater degree of concern and responsibility for the present plight of the Muslim world, or other forces will rise up in this present generation of young, forward-thinking Muslims and the "power centers" will be taken from the hands of those that they are now in and placed elsewhere. Allah can easily do this.
Originally appeared in Al-Muslimoon Magazine in February, 1965. Reappeared in Malcom-x.org.