The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was jailed May 8, 1942 after he refused to register for the draft and take part in World War II. He was beyond the age of draft eligibility and was a conscientious objector to the war. Yet he and other Muslims over the years have been imprisoned unjustly as government authorities on different levels tried to thwart the teaching of Islam and the spread of truth among the children of America’s once slaves.
If you think that the abuses and targeting of Muslims and attempts to deny truth have ended think again. Muslim inmates still suffer today and are denied their religious rights and recognition of their faith earned by Believers who suffered in prison before them. In 2012, these brothers and sisters in desperate need of the truth and with a burning desire to learn more about the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad are often denied basic rights and religious accommodation that is unworthy of a nation that touts itself as a model of democracy. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of democracy.
Islam comes as a social solution and as a healing for the ills Black people have suffered and the sins we have adopted in 400 years of oppression and enslavement. Islam comes to give the Black man and woman the knowledge of self and a desire to rise from a wretched former condition into a higher state and to emerge as a new self-respecting, law abiding human being. The transformation of petty criminal Malcolm Little into powerful Minister Malcolm X, taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, is not just a story for yesterday but a reality for brothers and sisters who learn of the teachings every day. Islam stresses a focus on self-improvement as the precursor to community development.
In recent years, lawsuits have been filed because The Final Call newspaper, the official organ of the Nation of Islam and Black America’s independent source of information, has been banned in penal institutions at the federal, state and local level. The Final Call comes as a source of light and a source of truth with the purpose of resurrecting fallen humanity. The Final Call certainly does not encourage revolt against prison authorities who already have our poor brothers and sisters under their control and at their mercy.
Each week the newspaper strives to provide important news and vital spiritual offerings. The wisdom contained in weekly excerpts from books by Mr. Muhammad and messages from his National Representative, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, can transform the lives of inmates and reform those caught in the snares of a racist society and an unjust social order.
Denying our brothers and sisters access to the information needed to learn more about the faith and to promote their proper development does nothing to effect greater peace inside correctional institutions. Over the years inmates who accept Islam have been shown to be disciplined and are taught to obey those in authority over them and respect rules and laws that do not conflict with their religion. That orientation alone should make authorities welcome Islam into their institutions and allow the faith to be taught in an unhindered way. But in addition to their personal salvation, these Muslims behind bars and Nation of Islam ministers desire to teach and train others in the way of God. They desire peace, they pursue knowledge and they dispel ignorance by God’s grace.
Denying these brothers and sisters Holy Qur’ans, the Muslim book of scripture, and other religious materials, locking them up in segregation for no reason, beating them, denying them non-pork meals, mocking and belittling them does not make things better. We humbly submit to authorities that the way to improve prison conditions is not to deny inmates the truth, but to allow Nation of Islam ministers to freely teach those who are incarcerated. “When you look at what the Muslims are doing with our prison program, in the midst of you, here again you see a torchlight. Muslims are relatively crime free, and our rate of recidivism is lower than the main.
We respect law and order. Since so many of the inmates are our people, why not let us reform them and help to save some of the taxpayer’s money. Why not let us handle the inmates and lessen the taxpayer’s burden. We can handle the inmates for less than what America is paying now. And better, we can reform our people and make them productive members of society,” wrote the Minister in his book, “A Torchlight for America.”
“America has not found a way to curb crime and reform those in her society who consistently break her laws, particularly in the Black community. The fact is that due to the high rate of recidivism, most of the street crime is perpetuated by the same set of people. Instead of being reformed, a substantial number of people are recycled through committing crime and then being incarcerated again and again,” he continued.
Islam can help. Islam dignifies. Islam civilizes. Islam uplifts. It is the religion of peace and can help bring peace to those who are jailed and those who oversee inmates. A better environment, greater respect and increased knowledge would make the rehabilitation of inmates easier and curb recidivism. The work of the Nation of Islam is a work of redemption. We just need and desire the opportunity to serve.