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E- Letter To USA Today, Edward Blum and Marc Levin Re: Islam Challenges black churches

Your recent piece entitled "Islam challenges black churches", though touching on a very important subject is written from several flawed premises and filled with several biases. As a result your analysis of both Islam and the Black Church is superficial and confused and reminds one of the mindset of those who perpetuated the Crusades in which Muslims and Christians warred with one another.

You nominally recognize Islam as a religion and are impressed by its rapid spread among Blacks in America and yet are at a loss to explain why Islam is so popular among Blacks. Your attempt at an explanation reveals that either you really don't believe that Islam is a religion as you claim or that you simply don't understand religion - or have even made an attempt at gaining such an understanding.

You pose the question, "Why has the Nation Of Islam, in particular, taken root among inner-city blacks?" And in an effort to answer your own question you cite a Mr. Daniel Pipes, a director of the Middle East Forum and " an expert on Islam" and a Rev. Carl Ellis, president of Project Joseph, "a Christian ministry trying to stem the tide of black converts to Islam".

Why would you defer to these two men for an explanation to the question "Why has the Nation of Islam, in particular, taken root among inner-city blacks?" Why not seek the answer to your question from an "inner-city Black" who is a member of the Nation of Islam? Why not speak to a Minister in the Nation of Islam? Why not, at least, refer to recent speeches given by Minister Louis Farrakhan or his Ministers in the Nation of Islam? Your failure to do so is evidence in and of itself that you really could care less about the answer to your own question.

It is always interesting to see the awkward and illogical way in which journalists handle the fact that the Nation of Islam has been able to solve problems in society that others have failed at. Instead of giving the credit for ending drug addiction, prostitution, and crime to Allah (God), as Muslims do, or even exploring why Muslims credit God for such positive transformations, you move the discussion outside of the realm of the power of belief and faith in a Supreme Being and incredibly disconnect the discipline and moral teaching of the Nation of Islam from its spiritual base.

If Jesus and Moses can get credit for solving the personal and interpersonal problems of Christians and Jews why can't the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad of 1400 years ago and their message receive credit for the transformation of Black lives in the inner-city? Your analysis is inconsistent with your stated claim that Islam is a religion. How can you study a religion and the effect that it has on human beings without factoring in God or the theology and religion of the human beings that you are looking at?

Instead you seek the answer for the success and popularity of Islam among inner-city Blacks from Daniel Pipes who, according to you, believes that Islam takes root among Blacks because of an "unusual message of hate and hope". How convenient of you.

Next, you defer to a Christian pastor whose ministry, you describe, is devoted to " trying to stem the tide of black converts to Islam". I would hope that you are incorrect in your description of this Reverend's ministry. I would hope that his mission would be to teach, preach and establish the message of Jesus Christ.

You indicate that Rev. Carl Ellis credits the growth of Islam to the weakness of the Black Church, claiming the Nation of Islam fills a moral and cultural void that used to be filled by the Black Church. Well, if Reverend admits that the Nation of Islam is filling a void that the Black Church filled by the power of Christ and God why is the Reverend trying to stop the spread of Islam among Blacks in the inner cities? Why would he dedicate his ministry to the task of stopping the good work that he claims the Black Church used to do? Why didn't you ask him that, if you have described his ministry properly?

Your emphasis on the Reverend's explanation of why Islam is so popular reveals the "Crusades-mentality" that you suffer from. You seek to pit the Nation of Islam and the Black Church against one another by concluding that Islam is a threat to peace. You claim " But cultural and political tensions may rise with the growth of Islam" How so? Especially when the good works of the Nation of Islam fill your piece from beginning to end. You make reference to a holy war. Among the Black Church and the Nation of Islam? Where are the signs of such a war? You obviously are ignorant of the numerous examples of unity between the Black Church and Nation of Islam over the last two decades - or maybe you know of such examples and decided to not include them in your piece.

Furthermore you end the piece in an extremely condescending tone questioning the integrity of the leadership of the Black Community's Islamic leadership. You write, " Many of the effects of this religious change in America's black community are unpredictable and uncontrollable. We hope that responsible and tolerant black Islamic religious leaders will guide this burgeoning community in a positive direction?"

Isn't such guidance already evident to you in the Islamic community's ability to solve some of society's most intractable problems and to resolve conflicts in inner cities? Why is your final comment even necessary after you have established, in your piece, that Nation of Islam has established discipline, morality and responsibility in the Black community? Does the Nation of Islam make you so uncomfortable that in the body of your own piece you would seek to erase its wonderful track record of responsible leadership- a track record that you bear witness to repeatedly in your piece.

What is the real motive of your article?

Are there any real problems between the Black Church and the Nation Of Islam or are you just seeking to create them?


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, July 20, 2000

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