Above Image: A crowd of Black Muslims applaud during Elijah Muhammad’s annual Saviors’ Day message in Chicago in 1974.
In respond to my recently posting a story on Facebook about an ISIS supporter in Phoenix (apparently an African-American male who had converted to Islam) who was searching for a midnight mass he could attack over Christmas, a friend asked me the following question.
“Is there a concern that black Americans, who feel marginalized in society, will be a segment of the population ISIS may try to manipulate and recruit? The Nation of Islam is still very active in the US, estimates of around 20,000 or more followers. And while I can distinguish between the Nation and ISIS, I am concerned that in our current political and social climate more African American males will be led to believe they are not valued in Western society. We have the case you have posted here, I think there was a potential plot in Miami a few months ago. I just worry if we do not address the appeal of ISIS to a disenfranchised group of vulnerable Americans, we may see more and more cases of this.”
There are many issues to consider here and I admit plainly that I am no expert on the Nation of Islam, how it indoctrinates its adherents, and the impact of black militancy or black nationalism ideology in the production of terrorists. As a result, let me address some of these points in more general terms and then tentatively theorize a bit about the details.
Al-Azhar University is considered Sunni Islam’s oldest and most distinguished institution of learning. The University was founded c. 1171 in Cairo when the Ayyubids under Salah al-Din overthrew the Shia Fatimid Empire in Egypt. The new Sunni rulers insisted that the instruction of Sunni jurisprudence should replace any Shia instruction and the new university would be centered around the Al-Azhar mosque (originally constructed c. 970-972). It was at this point, with the founding of the university c. 1171, that Al-Azhar (and Cairo) began to establish itself as one of the most authoritative Islamic institutions of the past nine-hundred years, remaining so today. Thus, the views of the scholars of Al-Azhar matter to many modern Muslims, particularly in the absence of a modern generally recognized caliphate, who often look to Al-Azhar for guidance on modern controversies. Consequently, I have found Al-Azhar’s commentary on issues related to the rise of the Islamic State (and related issues) troubling. Continue reading
With the recent institutionalization of slavery in the so-called Islamic State, as well as the troubling and much publicized acknowledgement of the legitimacy of slavery by some modern Islamic scholars (see examples here, here, and here), the issue of slavery in the Muslim world has been on my radar recently.
Consequently, some comments by the former Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis on this issue recently caught my attention. In his book Race and Slavery in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 1990), Lewis wrote: Continue reading
I’d recently viewed a widely circulating clip showing Al-Azhar Professor Suad Saleh arguing that, in a legitimate war between Muslims and their enemies, Muslims can capture slave girls and have sex with them. This is disheartening because Al-Azhar is a more than 1000 year old seat of learning and perhaps the most respected in the Sunni Muslim world. It’s a particularly touchy issue because of ISIS’ recent actions with regard to the Yazidi people. The video is from September 12, 2014, but has been circulating in social media in recent days. You can view it here: http://www.memri.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5252.htm
It made me think of a something I had recently read in the book by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (New York: Harper Collins, 2015) concerning the well-publicized success of the Islamic State in capturing and enslaving up to 7,000 Yazidi women.
Stern (a lecturer on terrorism at Harvard University) and Berger (a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution) offer the following insight Continue reading