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Malcolm X: The True Revolutionary

Tuesday, February 21 marked the 58th year since the assassination of Malik El-Shabazz, or Malcolm X, who was most known for his activism in fighting for African American rights against the systematically racist United States government. Malcolm’s pursuit of spiritual transformation as a means of societal reform, his Islam-centric activism and his fearless stance against tyrants made him a true revolutionary leader. In contemporary times, the lessons from his life are more significant than ever.

From early life on the streets, to joining the Nation of Islam, then eventually leaving the Nation to ultimately discover the true ideals of divine justice, Malcolm’s life gives reminder that God carries you even if you take a single step towards Him. 

Malcolm X began his long journey towards Islam during his time in prison. Malcolm described this period of his life by stating that he “had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man’s society when– soon now, in prison– I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life.”

During his first 12 years as a Muslim, Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam, an African American movement that combined elements of Islam with Black nationalism. Instead of dismantling racism from its roots, this movement replaced one injustice with another, claiming that all White men were devils that plotted against a superior Black race. Malcolm X comments on leaving the Nation, stating, “the true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.” 

Once he left the Nation, Malcolm X journeyed to the Hajj pilgrimage, where he saw the true Islamic worldview of no superiority based on race. “The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of the One God,” he commented. From this point onwards, “the white man” no longer served as a blanket term against all Whites but rather as an ideology nurturing an attitude of superiority over Blacks and other such minorities held by the people in power. From the early 1800s where white indentured servants were fed the idea that they were better than black slaves, to modern day where progressive demographics are told that they are better than their counterparts, the ruling powers created disunity amongst the masses to further their own agenda. 

Malcolm X also fearlessly spoke against the United States government, believing it to be an entity which upholds a racist ideology and thrives off the oppression and censorship of anyone who threatens its agenda. However, he made a point to distinguish between the nation and its people, stating that “it isn’t the American white man who is a racist, but it’s the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man.” Malcolm also commented that rather than any one person or party, the root of the United States’ problems lies in its capitalistic economy, as this “society has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings.” He continuously referred to the fact that the US was birthed through ‘genocide’ by embracing the Indigenous as an inferior race. He added that racial colonial hatred had existed within the premise of the United States “before there were large numbers of Blacks on our shores.” 

Malcolm also spoke against both the Democratic and Republican parties equally, famously using the analogy of the fox and wolf and how they both were likely to “equally eat up” the country. He characterized the Democratic party as the sly and deceitful fox, and the Republican party as the wolf. During the 1964 Presidential elections, Malcolm criticized the large number of African Americans voting for the democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson, over the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, by stating that “the wolf’s very growling would keep me alert and fight him to survive, whereas I might be lulled and fooled by the tricky fox.” He also stated that he preferred a “conservative” candidate because, at the very least, they outwardly displayed their racism and agenda. Malcolm further commented, “I wouldn’t have put myself in the position of voting for either candidate for Presidency.” These statements signify that Malcolm X saw the system for what it was, racist at its very root, and regardless of party, believed that such evil policies are upheld at a foundational level. 

Malcolm X’s pursuit of truth, until his martyrdom, was one of spiritual reformation. He sought to understand his faith at a deeper level, and through purifying his own beliefs and strengthening his trust in God, Malcolm X became a true leader of a societal revolution. He saw that American society, specifically its racist ideology, cannot be changed without the complete reformation of the ideals it upholds.

Malcolm recognized that the significance of brotherhood and lack of superiority amongst one another in Islam were “desperately needed, particularly by the American black man.” Malcolm X also discussed how the “white man’s” rise to power was through the use of naked physical power and that he was totally spiritually inadequate. He states, “Mankind’s history has proved from one era to another that the true criterion of leadership is spiritual. The only true world solution today is governments guided by true religion- of the spirit.” This particular emphasis on spiritual reform being the only answer in guiding a just government set him apart from the other civil right activists of his time. 

Malcolm X also taught that the oppressed have the right to be respected and dignified and such a cause has to be brought “into existence by any means necessary.” He discusses how African Americans often internalize a complex by seeking approval from those in power and would champion even the smallest acknowledgement from “the white man.” This can be seen when Malcolm criticizes how the African American population were so quick to promote the “liberal” candidate Johnson, when he endorsed the so-called “civil rights” and acknowledged racism at a surface level, yet engaged with individuals and policies who led the civil rights opposition. 

Malcolm’s belief was that it is the duty of the oppressed to resist by any means and to “take a stand for itself.” This is also of particular emphasis when it comes to Muslims living in the West whereby our sole seeking of pleasure should be from God himself, not from the forces that uphold tyranny. He taught revolutionaries to have political insight and how to look beyond the statements of flattery from figures who upheld the same racist ideals. 

Malcolm also emphasized the importance of mobilizing resistance against the oppressive powers. While other civil right’s activists limited their calls for justice to “peaceful coexistence,” Malcolm recognized that sometimes resistance was the only fruitful solution. This quickly led to Malcolm being labeled as “violent” or “extreme,” even by other civil rights activists. His reply to such criticisms was that, “I don’t go for non-violence if it also means a delayed solution. To me a delayed solution is a non-solution.” Not only did he see the significance of African Americans mobilizing resistance, he called for all the downtrodden to uphold their dignity and rights through resisting ‘by any means necessary’. 

Malcom X

His statement parallels the cause of the Palestinians who he also long advocated for. In a letter to the Egyptian Gazette, he declared his staunch support for the Palestinian struggle and resistance, equating Zionism with settler colonialism after visiting Gaza refugee camps. He noted the parallels between the struggles of the African Americans and Palestinians, and in 1964 was one of the first African American leaders to meet with the newly formed Palestine Liberation Organization. He states, “The zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palesitne has no intelligent legal basis in history.” 

While many civil rights activists championed the ideals of liberalism, Malcolm X saw the “sly words of the fox” for what they were and publicly denounced the liberal ideals that claimed to call for human rights. He had a particular criticism of the term “integration,” stating that “it was invented by a Northern liberal.” Malcolm continues by mentioning that the word doesn’t have a real meaning and that “the truth is that integration is an image, it’s a foxy Northern liberal’s smokescreen that confuses the true wants of the American black man.” Much of this parallels the impact of liberalism in the Muslim community today. The “liberal” Democratic party will often chant slogans of so-called representation towards Muslims, yet their policies stand against the very ideals of Islam, from the soft war to funding wars that impact Muslims abroad. The enticing words of the liberals, as Malcolm X teaches, are the true hindrance that block Muslims from strengthening their own identities and building their own movements rooted in Islamic principles. 

Above all, Malcolm X was a true revolutionary because of his trust towards his Lord and his dedication to upholding a divine cause. His ascension to martyrdom speaks to the fact that he truly saw nothing more significant than serving his Lord, even when he sensed his assassination. He said, “The only thing the FBI, the CIA or anybody else could ever find me guilty of was being open minded. I said I was seeking for the truth and I was trying to weigh objects and everything on its own merit.” His complete annihilation for the pleasures of this world gave him the courage to condemn the very system of the United States. He declares, “I came here to tell the truth. And if the truth condemns America, then she stands condemned.” 

Towards the end of his autobiography, he anticipates his martyrdom approaching, mentioning that he lives each day as if he is already dead. He even predicts how his words will be selectively chosen and used as “convenient symbols.” This includes both the imperialists using his words to show he represented hatred, as well as liberal movements using his words slyly to appear as bearers of justice all while working against the resistance. He understood that being attacked by the tyrants is an indication of being on the right path. He states, “I have been more reassured each time the white man resisted me, or attacked me harder–because each time made me more certain that I was on the right track in the American black man’s best interests.” 

His rise to martyrdom made his message and ideals truly infinite. Shaheed Malcolm X affirms, “And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America then, all of the credit is due to Allah.” 

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  • Sayyeda Fatima

    Sayyeda Fatima is an American current affairs writer who focuses on analyzing domestic and broader global politics from lenses not projected by Western media.

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