By Demetric Muhammad -Guest Columnist-
In a vicious flourish of lies, the Washington Examiner published a full-frontal assault on one of Black America’s most cherished institutions–the Nation of Islam; to be more specific, the Nation of Islam’s legendary Prison Reform Ministry.
Yes, the same Prison Reform Ministry that was started by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad with over 80 of his male followers who were imprisoned in 1942 because of their religious beliefs; the same prison ministry that produced Minister Malcolm X as well as thousands of other men and women who emerged from their time of confinement in prison, to serve as luminaries in their various fields of endeavor.
Consider the actual lived experience of Bro. Charles X:
“In prison they had DVDs of the Minister at that time and they had DVDs playing in the chapel called ‘Obedience Is the Highest Form of Sacrifice.’ My attraction was to the brothers who were in the Nation; they were so clean and lean and in prison we all had the same uniform, but they were different and I was attracted to the discipline of these men. My mother came to visit me in the prison and she said my whole demeanor and attitude was different. She looked at me and she said, ‘Baby, I don’t know what you’re doing but keep doing it.’ I read Message to the Blackman and I felt so strong and powerful and it made me really want to be somebody… . I stopped all sport and play and it was serious business for me from that point on … I went to prison a drug dealer and with no love for anybody and when I got into the teachings I fell in love with Black people.” Charles X in The Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and the Men Who Follow Him by Dawn Marie Gibson
The experience of Brother Charles X is a common one. And this article will rebut the propaganda piece written by Ms. Alana Goodman in December and condemn it.
It was the Nation of Islam’s Prison Reform Ministry that Tupac rapped about in his legendary anthem, “I ain’t mad at ya,” a song where he narrates that which has become a common cultural norm in the Black communities when a family member is convicted of a crime, goes to prison and experiences a life transformation resulting from their encounter with the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Consider these important facts that the Washington Examiner omitted.
FACT: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Ministry has been recognized by Prison Officials for its Positive Impact On the Prison Environment.
Throughout our history of bettering the lives of the incarcerated, testimonies, articles and letters published in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper, have been characteristic of the NOI Prison Ministry Reform.FACT: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Ministry has been recognized by scholars for its beneficial role with correctional settings.
“The success of the Nation of Islam, as we shall explore in this book, is due to two interconnected factors. First, the Nation of Islam has provided an effective prison-bound mechanism of protection to those who convert to its brand of Islam. Second, the literature of the Nation of Islam claims that not only has it converted a large number of inmates to Islam, but has also successfully reintegrated them into its social and economic infrastructures thus preventing them from recidivating and being re-incarcerated. Accordingly, this transformation from a convicted felon to a rehabilitated Muslim convert takes place through several stages as prospective convert-inmates are taken under the Nation of Islam’s prison-bound protective networks to be gradually assimilated into the Nation’s version of Islam based on the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the founder and the spiritual leader.” Hamid Reza Kusha, Islam in America’s Prisons, Black Muslims’ Challenge to American Penology
FACT: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Ministry and the inmates it developed did the pioneering litigation that expanded and secured the Constitutional Rights for all incarcerated persons.
“During the 1960s and 1970s, Black Muslim prisoners were primary actors in the process of filing legal actions to obtain judicial recognition and enforcement of a limited range of constitutional rights for incarcerated offenders. The Muslim prisoners are widely recognized for their important role, as evidenced by commentators’ characterizations of them as ‘the major catalyst,’ those ‘who carried the torch of [B]lack protest’ and ‘the fuse to this legal explosion’. Despite this recognition of their importance, further analysis of the details of their role has been called a ‘high priority for building a body of research on prisoners’ rights.’ The Muslim prisoners’ cases have had a profound impact upon the entire correctional system, both because they helped to change the existing relationships between ‘keeper’ and ‘kept’ during the 1960s and because they provided the legal vehicles for all incarcerated persons to attempt to vindicate their constitutional rights. The development of the Black Muslims and their assertive doctrines coincided with the federal courts’ increased receptivity to demands for recognition and protection by various political minorities throughout American society. The simultaneous development of these phenomena, influenced by common factors in the changing political and social environment of the 1950s and 1960s, resulted in the significant expansion of constitutional protections for prisoners and transformed the previously deferential relationship between the judiciary and state correctional agencies.” Black Muslims and the Development of Prisoners’ Rights Author(s): Christopher E. Smith Source: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Dec., 1993), pp. 131-146 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
FACT: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Ministry has as its primary emphasis “self-improvement” and uses as its primary text Self-Improvement: The Basis for Community Development written by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.Shown at bottom of page is the publicly available course of study that serves as the primary teachings and curriculum for the Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry.
FACT: The use of contract service providers is a standard practice within the correctional industry to help ensure that inmates of all faiths are allowed to practice their faith while incarcerated.
“There are a variety of possible scenarios in which a chaplain may be required to use outside contractors. In some situations, a contractor may be hired to conduct religious worship services that fall outside of the chaplain’s own denomination. For example, a Protestant chaplain may hire a contract imam to perform worship services for the Islamic inmates if there is no Muslim chaplain on staff to meet this need. Outside contractors of the same faith background as the chaplain may also be recruited in the following instances: the prison chaplain is a lay person who is not allowed to perform certain, liturgical duties; there is an inordinately large number of inmates of that faith background who require multiple worship services a week; or the prison’s physical layout is such that separate worship services are needed such as in a high-rise building. A signification portion of most U.S. prison chaplaincy budgets are earmarked for the hiring of contractor services. Jeneve Brooks-Klinger, Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities
FACT: During the infamous Attica uprising, it was Nation of Islam inmates who helped protect the innocent hostages from being harmed.
Author Mark S. Hamm discusses the hidden history of how Nation of Islam Muslims protected hostages during the Attica uprising:
“Beginning on September 9, 1971, Muslim prisoners swiftly organized themselves in order to protect forty-three guards taken hostage during the legendary Attica prison rebellion in upstate New York. Five grueling days later, during which time three prisoners were stabbed to death after being marked as snitches, twenty-nine prisoners and ten guards were killed by the crossfire of two hundred attacking New York State troopers in a bungled attempt to retake the facility. At this perilous moment, an agreement to end the siege was mediated by two Moorish Science prisoners, Carl Jones-El and Donald Noble, and a loquacious Nation of Islam prisoner from the Virgin Islands named Herbert Blyden X. On September 15, the brother of a slain guard appeared on the CBS Evening News to tell Walter Cronkite that he ‘no longer considered inmates animals’ after hearing that Black Muslims had helped save the hostages. Nevertheless, afterward, the riot police roamed the Attica yard, beating and torturing scores of naked inmates, many of whom were seriously wounded.” Mark S. Hamm, The Spectacular Few
The work of the Nation of Islam is a great benefit and blessing to the American Penal System. The history, as we have shown, is overwhelming in terms of what we have been blessed to achieve.
Instead of U.S. Representative Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok condemning the Nation of Islam, they should leave us alone. The Nation of Islam, which is comprised of tax paying citizens, has a right to provide services to Believers and others who are incarcerated. As effective as Minister Farrakhan’s message is and has been, it should be supported with the resources it needs to remain a strong presence within the prison system.
Demetric Muhammad is a student minister at Muhammad Mosque No. 55 in Memphis. Read more from him at researchminister.com and follow @brotherdemetric on Twitter.