Overview

Executive Summary:

The Nation of Islam (NOI) was formed in 1930 by Wallace D. Fard, a mysterious figure who was also known as Farad Muhammad, Wallace Dodd, Wallace Ford, Wallie D. Ford, Wallei Ford, and Wallace Farad, and whose origins remain disputed.“Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. NOI purports to fight systemic oppression of, and discrimination against, Black Americans by preaching Black racial supremacy. The group mixes tenets of Islam with conspiracy theories and mythology deeply rooted in racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-LGBT beliefs.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. While NOI claims to be Islamic, its teachings contradict traditional, core Islamic doctrine.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, NOI was considered a fringe “voodoo sect” in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1959, minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. denounced it as “a hate group arising in our midst that would preach the doctrine of Black supremacy.”Barry J Balleck, Hate Groups and Extremist Organizations in America: An Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2019), 205, rb.gy/4vduuc. Upon leaving NOI in the 1960s, Malcom X denounced its racism as a “sickness and madness.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Nonetheless, NOI has since grown into one of the wealthiest and best-known Black organizations in America.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

On October 16, 1995, NOI leader Louis Farrakhan organized the Million Man March on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., one of the most prominent events in NOI history.“Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/. Between 400,000 and 850,000 people attended the march, during which Farrakhan called White supremacy the root of America’s suffering.“Farrakhan Revels in the Spotlight of Million Man March,” CNN, October 16, 1995, https://web.archive.org/web/20190709014343/http://edition.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-16/update/index.html; Michael Janofsky, “Federal Parks Chief Calls ‘Million Man’ Count Low,” New York Times, October 21, 1995, https://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/21/us/federal-parks-chief-calls-million-man-count-low.html; “Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/.

Farrakhan rose to prominence within NOI under the tutelage of Malcom X in the 1960s. While Malcom X ultimately left and denounced the organization, Farrakhan’s power in it increased.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Longtime NOI leader Elijah Muhammad died in 1975 and was replaced by one of his sons, Warith Deen Muhammad. Warith and Farrakhan disagreed over NOI’s future. As leader, Warith tried to move NOI away from preaching racial separatism and Black supremacism and adopt a more orthodox and inclusive Islamic theology, while Farrakhan wanted NOI to remain true to Elijah’s original teachings. Warith changed the group’s name to the World Community of al-Islam in 1976, but Farrakhan created a new group named the Nation of Islam that espoused the old NOI’s longstanding theology and ideology.“Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” Nation of Islam, accessed July 10, 2020, https://www.noi.org/minister-louis-farrakhan/; “Louis Farrakhan,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/louis-farrakhan. Farrakhan often refers to himself as the heir to Elijah Muhammad’s legacy, but Warith accused him of presenting a “false image of Islam.”“Elijah Muhammad’s Son Counters Farrakhan Teachings,” Baltimore Sun, May 16, 1994, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1994-05-16-1994136064-story.html.

NOI’s anti-Semitism and support for separation of White and Black Americans has garnered positive attention from neo-Nazis and other far-right groups. In 1962, NOI invited American Nazi Party head George Lincoln Rockwell to one of its conventions, during which Rockwell called Elijah Muhammad “the Hitler of Blacks.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Shortly before his assassination by an NOI member, Malcolm X revealed that NOI and the Klu Klux Klan representatives had met with the aim of building a mutually beneficial relationship.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. A 2017 tweet by Farrakhan saying, “Black People: We should be more convinced that it is time for us to separate and build a nation of our own,” drew praise and re-tweets from White nationalist leaders, such as Michael “Enoch” Peinovich, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Farrakhan has also defended foreign dictators, such as Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, Idi Amin of Uganda, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020,  https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Most prominently, Farrakhan and NOI received millions of dollars in donations from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with Farrakhan traveling to Libya in 1986 to meet personally with Gaddafi.Douglas Frantz and George de Lama, “Farrakhan Probed on Libya Visit,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1986, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-04-13-8601260849-story.html; Louis Farrakhan, “The Nation of Islam Welcomes Muammar Gadhafi,” September 22, 2009, https://www.noi.org/nation-of-islam-welcomes-muammar-gadhafi/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Farrakhan has also made multiple trips to Iran, most recently conducting media tours in 2016 and 2018.“Minister Farrakhan’s Full Iran TV Interview with Nader Talebzadeh,” Nation of Islam, December 6, 2016, https://www.noi.org/farrakhan-iran-tv-interview/.

Over the past ten years, Farrakhan has also pushed for a “long and beautiful relationship” with Scientology, with thousands of NOI members now studying the fringe ideology.Eliza Gray, “Thetans and Bowties,” New Republic, October 5, 2012, https://rb.gy/ggvpdh.

Doctrine:

NOI purports to fight systemic oppression of, and discrimination against, Black Americans by preaching Black racial supremacy. The group also mixes tenets of traditional Islam with conspiracy theories and mythology deeply rooted in racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Since its foundation, NOI has characterized Whites as “devils,” claimed Jews control the government and perform chemical experiments on Black Americans, and forbidden interracial marriage.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

While NOI claims to be Islamic, many of its teachings contradict traditional, core Islamic doctrine.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1. Most glaring, NOI claims that Allah “appeared in the Person” of the group’s founder, Wallace D. Fard, and that Fard’s appearance on Earth signaled the coming apocalypse which would overthrow the White “devil”—a battle NOI would play a central part in.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

NOI’s version of the Shahada—the central creed of Islam—states, “There is no God but Allah, who appeared in the person of Master [Wallace] Fard Muhammad, and I bear witness that the most honorable Elijah Muhammad is the exalted Christ, and that the honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is our divine reminder, warner, and servant among us.”Lenore Muhammad, “The Nation of Islam's M.G.T. & G.C.C. Presents Home Pressure Canning,” Abdul Qiyam Muhammad, posted on March 31, 2020, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLY6lDr17o4. By contrast, more orthodox schools of Islam hold that Allah does not assume human form, and the traditional Shahada simply states, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”“Incarnation,” Oxford Islamic Studies Online, 2020, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e1027;  “Shahadah: the statement of faith,” BBC News, August 23, 2009, https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/practices/shahadah.shtml.

NOI’s hybrid theology claims Black people were the original human beings and lived in an earthly paradise. Then an evil scientist named Yakub (the same person as the Biblical character Jacob) created the White race through selective breeding of Black people to produce humans with increasingly lighter skin, and those Whites then subjugated the Black people.“National Geographic Proves Teaching on Mr. Yakub,” Final Call, May 23, 2013, https://new.finalcall.com/2013/05/23/national-geographic-proves-teaching-on-mr-yakub/; Alan Muhammad, “Myth or High Science? Is There Evidence of Mr. Yakub?,” Final Call, October 24, 2010, http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Perspectives_1/article_7371.shtml; Louis Farrakhan, “Have No Fear for the Future: The Future is Ours,” Final Call, February 21, 2017, https://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Minister_Louis_Farrakhan_9/article_103513.shtml; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. The impending apocalypse will return the world to that earlier state of paradise.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. According to the New York Times, NOI also rejects sharia (Islamic law), which is derived from the Quran and the prophet Muhammad’s reported statements.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1.

Following Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, his son, Warith, attempted to moderate NOI’s rhetoric and adjust its teachings to reflect more orthodox Islamic practices.“Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. In 1976, he changed the group’s name to the World Community of al-Islam.Malise Ruthven, “Obituary: WD Mohammed,” Guardian (London), September 11, 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/sep/12/islam.religion. In 1977, however, Farrakhan split off from the renamed organization and created a new Nation of Islam that espoused Elijah Muhammad’s views.“Several Black Muslims Denounce Farrakhan,” New York Times, July 5, 1984, https://www.nytimes.com/1984/07/05/us/several-Black-muslims-denounce-farrakhan.html; “Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” Nation of Islam, accessed July 10, 2020, https://www.noi.org/minister-louis-farrakhan/. “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Farrakhan frequently refers to Judaism as the “dirty religion” and claims that Black people, not Jews, are God’s “chosen people.”Ashahed M. Muhammad, “Blacks in America: The True Children of Israel,” Final Call, October 5, 2010, http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_7316.shtml; Richard B. Muhammad and Ashahed M. Muhamad, “Farrakhan: Blacks Are True Children of Israel,” Final Call, June 28, 2010, http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_7089.shtml; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. In 1991, Farrakhan commissioned a so-called study by NOI’s Historical Research Department that falsely claimed Jewish merchants were the main perpetrators of the Atlantic slave trade.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Farrakhan also describes the LGBT community, Catholics, and Whites as “potential humans ... [who] haven’t evolved yet.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. He has also pushed anti-LGBT conspiracy theories, claiming homosexuality is the result of a chemical reaction and part of a government conspiracy to chemically castrate the Black American population.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Organizational Structure:

Across the United States, NOI operates religious centers, called Temples, where its followers congregate for meetings and prayers.“Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/. Farrakhan oversees a Council of Leaders, which Farrakhan has claimed will take over NOI following his death.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1. NOI further consists of ten “ministries”: Spiritual Development, Agriculture, Health, Education, Information, Trade and Commerce, Defense, Justice, Arts and Culture, and Science and Technology.“The Ministries,” Nation of Islam, https://www.noi.org/the-ministries/. Each ministry is reportedly headed by a “minister,” although the current ministers remain unlisted on the official NOI website.

NOI’s militant branch, the “Fruit of Islam” (FOI), was designed by Fard to protect followers from police and to patrol low-income Black neighborhoods, where it has been credited with reducing crime rates.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. In a 2017 interview, NOI expert Professor Zain Abdullah referred to the group as a “self-defense organization.” He added, “They believe in self-defense, they don’t believe in turning the other cheek,” indicating the group believes in using violence when its members feel threatened.“Why Is the Nation Of Islam Classified as a Hate Group?,” WBUR, May 3, 2017, https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/05/03/nation-of-islam. In 1990, NOI founded a subset of FOI, the Nation of Islam Security Agency, in Washington, D.C. This group was specifically tasked with guarding low-income housing projects in an effort to help lower crime rates, and received multi-million-dollar contracts from cities, including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago.Steven A. Holmes, “As Farrakhan Groups Land Jobs from Government, Debate Grows,” New York Times, March 4, 1994, https://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/04/us/as-farrakhan-groups-land-jobs-from-government-debate-grows.html.

The Fruit of Islam has so successfully achieved its aims that in 2012, Chicago’s Jewish mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/. NOI has also worked with local police to develop anti-drug plans for low-income housing complexes.Sari Horwitz, “Police to Cooperate with Muslims in Mayfair Mansions Drug Patrols,” Washington Post, April 21, 1988, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/04/21/police-to-cooperate-with-muslims-in-mayfair-mansions-drug-patrols/8b3c2439-66d9-4f5e-8d6b-0ecadba35259/?utm_term=.c0faf6f13cd3.

NOI’s anti-crime and rehabilitation efforts have long been its major draw for African American activists. Many anti-violence groups have also partnered with NOI due to its extensive presence in prisons, where it uses its ideology to reform violent inmates and preaches a strict anti-drug, pro–traditional family ethos.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/.

NOI has also produced several in-house newspapers dedicated to spreading NOI’s message and to the “survival of the Black nation.”Toure Muhammad, “The Final Call to Mark 40 Years of Publishing with Special Banquet,” Final Call, February 5, 2020, https://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/The-Final-Call-To-Mark-40-Years-Of-Publishing-With-Special-Banquet.shtml. From 1960 to 1975, NOI ran a popular tabloid called Muhammad Speaks.Roland Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A. (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1990), p. 90, https://archive.org/details/Blackpressusa0000wols_h5o4/page/90/mode/2up. When Warith left NOI in 1975 he took Muhammad Speaks with him, changing its name first to Bilalian News and then to Muslim Journal.Eric Washington, The Black Muslims in America (Grand Rapids, Michigan: History Publishing Company, 1994), p. 127-129. Farrakhan established a new NOI newspaper in 1979, the Final Call, dedicated to spreading NOI’s message and to the “survival of the Black nation.”Toure Muhammad, “The Final Call to Mark 40 Years of Publishing with Special Banquet,” Final Call, February 5, 2020, https://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/The-Final-Call-To-Mark-40-Years-Of-Publishing-With-Special-Banquet.shtml.

Under Farrakhan, NOI also established the Nation of Islam Research Group, which ostensibly collects and writes articles on current topics related to NOI’s activities.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. The Research Group has been used to lend credibility to NOI’s anti-Semitic claims. In 1991, for example, it published a study titled, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” which falsely claimed Jewish merchants were the main proponents of the Atlantic slave trade.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Financing:

NOI began building a massive financial base in the 1940s, when Elijah Muhammad purchased farmland and founded businesses in several U.S. states that would be worth millions.“Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Under Farrakhan’s leadership, NOI further invested in economic self-sufficiency, and established shops and health products.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. NOI also owns farms in Michigan and Georgia, selling its food at its own grocery store in Atlanta. Farrakhan himself is worth more than $3 million.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. NOI goods, including its teachings and speeches by its leaders, are available for sale at all major online retailers, as well as in stores such as Walmart and Barnes and Noble.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

NOI also received $8 million in donations from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the 1970s and 1980s.Louis Farrakhan, “The Nation of Islam Welcomes Muammar Gadhafi,” September 22, 2009, https://www.noi.org/nation-of-islam-welcomes-muammar-gadhafi/. Gaddafi had a close relationship with the group, and NOI believed Gaddafi was “a friend of the struggle of Black people all over the World for true liberation.” The group saw his regime as part of NOI’s same fight against White Western oppression.Louis Farrakhan, “The Nation of Islam Welcomes Muammar Gadhafi,” September 22, 2009, https://www.noi.org/nation-of-islam-welcomes-muammar-gadhafi/. Gaddafi explicitly stated that this money was intended to aid Farrakhan in establishing his economic vision for NOI, and these funds indeed supported many NOI-operated businesses.Douglas Frantz and George de Lama, “Farrakhan Probed on Libya Visit,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1986, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-04-13-8601260849-story.html; Steven Holmes, “Farrakhan’s Angry World Tour Brings Harsh Criticism at Home,” New York Times, February 22, 1996, https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/22/world/farrakhan-s-angry-world-tour-brings-harsh-criticism-at-home.html; Louis Farrakhan, “The Nation of Islam Welcomes Muammar Gadhafi,” September 22, 2009, https://www.noi.org/nation-of-islam-welcomes-muammar-gadhafi/. A final donation from Gaddafi of $1 billion was blocked by the Clinton administration in 1996 due to increased U.S. sanctions against Libya.Dorothy Gaiter, “Nation of Islam Tries to Accept Gift of $1 Billion from Libya,” Wall Street Journal, August 26, 1996, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB841007141275125500.

Recruitment:

The U.S. government’s violent reaction to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s helped push Black Americans to join NOI. The new recruits were drawn to the group’s hardline stance against the oppression of Black Americans and opposition to the “White devils.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Many prominent civil rights leaders joined the Nation in the 1950s, including Malcolm X and boxing champion Muhammad Ali, which also helped expand NOI’s membership.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Membership surged again in the 1960s as a new generation of civil rights activists adopted more militant positions and found common ground with NOI and its ideology.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. As urban riots erupted in northern states, Black Americans were increasingly drawn to the language of racial separatism espoused by the Nation.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

In recent decades, NOI’s rehabilitation and anti-crime work among Black American prisoners and low-income communities has attracted broad support, including new followers and allies within the civil rights movement.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/. These allies have historically been wary of criticizing the racist and anti-Semitic aspects of NOI, claiming the organization is the only group helping destitute Black Americans.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/. Despite this, NOI membership figures have fallen drastically under Farrakhan’s leadership, standing at approximately 35,000 today compared to its peak of 100,000 followers in 1995.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1; “Nation of Islam (NOI),” USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, April 16, 2019, https://crcc.usc.edu/report/national-association-of-real-estate-brokers-nareb-religious-literacy-primer-2019/nation-of-islam-noi/. Black American Muslim converts, once the core of NOI’s membership, have turned increasingly to traditional Islamic sects in the twenty-first century.David Lepeska, “Farrakhan Using Libyan Crisis to Bolster His Nation of Islam,” New York Times, April 9, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/us/10cncfarrakhan.html?pagewanted=1.

Training:

NOI conducts education and training programs in prisons, aimed at recruiting new members and rehabilitating convicts.Adam Serwer, “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan,” Atlantic, March 11, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/nation-of-islam/555332/; “Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. New converts study under an NOI leader, taking classes and completing an oral exam before being given a new last name and officially joining the group.Patrice Gaines-Carter, “The Nation of Islam a Close-Knit Society,” Washington Post, September 18, 1988, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/09/18/the-nation-of-islam-a-close-knit-society/906113e7-3776-4655-b390-f4e179a9350c/. Men who join FOI are taught physical fitness, receive self-defense and martial-arts training, and learn “how to be a good husband and father, how to become employed and stay employed, career development and salesmanship.”Patrice Gaines-Carter, “The Nation of Islam a Close-Knit Society,” Washington Post, September 18, 1988, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/09/18/the-nation-of-islam-a-close-knit-society/906113e7-3776-4655-b390-f4e179a9350c/.

In a 2019 video, U.S. Army veteran and FOI member Minister Abdullah Tahama claimed that FOI training was modeled after the Army’s bootcamp and was intended to separate trainees from society to remove material urges.Abdullah Tahama, “US Army Training vs FOI Training—Minister Abdullah Tahama,” Laugh at First Site, posted on March 22, 2019, YouTube video, 13:13, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XeP9q2sRAA. A 2014 ad for FOI posted on YouTube showed members boxing and weightlifting while a voice-over spoke about the importance of spiritual strength.Steven Price, “F.O.I Commercial,” Culture Revolution, posted on February 25, 2014, YouTube video, 2:01, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LaA2YmUzgM.

The all-female counterpart to FOI, known as the Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class, teaches women “how to take care of themselves, their families and their husbands,” and offers classes on physical fitness, Arabic, Islamic history, and spiritual lessons.NOI: Denver Study Group, “Muslim Girls’ Training and General Civilization Class,” Facebook video, 1:19, September 18, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/MuhammadMosque51/videos/1116458361711289/?v=1116458361711289; Lenore Muhammad, “The Nation of Islam’s M.G.T. & G.C.C. Presents Home Pressure Canning,” Abdul Qiyam Muhammad, posted on March 31, 2020, YouTube video, 18:55, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLY6lDr17o4; Patrice Gaines-Carter, “The Nation of Islam a Close-Knit Society,” Washington Post, September 18, 1988, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/09/18/the-nation-of-islam-a-close-knit-society/906113e7-3776-4655-b390-f4e179a9350c/.

Key Leaders

  • Ishmael Muhammad

    National assistant minister
  • Abdul Hafeez Muhammad

    Student minister
  • Richard B. Muhammad

    Editor-in-chief of Final Call
  • Mustapha Farrakhan Sr.

    Supreme Captain of NOI

History

 

Violent Activities

Designations

None.

Associations

Ties to Extremist Entities:

White Nationalists

NOI’s anti-Semitism and support for racial separatism has attracted positive attention from neo-Nazis and other far-right groups. In 1962, NOI invited American Nazi Party head George Lincoln Rockwell to one of its conventions, during which Rockwell called Elijah Muhammad “the Hitler of Blacks.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Shortly before his assassination by an NOI member, Malcolm X made public a meeting between NOI and the Ku Klux Klan aimed at building a mutually beneficial relationship.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.
Farrakhan has also claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump would help further NOI’s goal to break Black Americans away from “White America.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. A 2017 tweet by Farrakhan saying, “Black People: We should be more convinced that it is time for us to separate and build a nation of our own,” drew support and retweets from White nationalist leaders, who retweeted Farrakhan and spoke positively of NOI.“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam. Michael “Enoch” Peinovich, founder of the White nationalist blog “The Right Stuff,” said, “I’ve always been a fan of Farrakhan [to be honest],” while White nationalist Richard Spencer offered to meet with Farrakhan “for a real dialogue.”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Media Coverage

  • Social media

    NOI has utilized multiple media platforms to connect its members and spread its messages, though several social-media companies have taken down...

Rhetoric

View All

Elijah Muhammad, “Our Saviour Has Arrived,” 1974

“Integration is against the Desire and Will of God Who Wants and must Do that which is written He Will Come and Do: Restore the earth to its rightful owner (Black Man).”“Nation of Islam,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/nation-islam.

Louis Farrakhan, radio interview, March 11, 1984

“The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t a great man for me as a Black person, but he was a great German. And he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of all of Europe and America after the first world war.”William Saphire, “Black Muslim Leader Extols Hitler,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 13, 1984, https://www.jta.org/1984/04/13/archive/Black-muslim-leader-extols-hitler.

“Now, I’m not proud of Hitler’s evils against Jewish people, but that’s a matter of record. He raised Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there’s a similarity in that we are raising our people up from nothing. But don’t compare me with your wicked killers.”Internet Archive, “History of the Jewish Attack on Min. Louis Farrakhan,” posted by “apidta” on November 7, 2012, YouTube video, 12:17, Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20130415101221/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP0nM8RyJgM ; “Minister Louis Farrakhan & the Jews: What is the Truth?,” Nation of Islam Research Group, March 16, 2018, http://noirg.org/news/min-louis-farrakhan-the-jews/.

Louis Farrakhan, radio interview, April 17, 1984

“I said, ‘Why did not you all rise up and censure this Judas, Uncle Tom member of your class?'’ I said, ‘I know the reason you won’t do it is because the same rottenness that’s in his heart is also in your own.’ I said, ‘But we're going to make an example of Milton Coleman.’ I'm going to stay on his case until we make him a fit example for the rest of them. ‘What do you intend to do to Milton Coleman?’ At this point, no physical harm. But at this point we’re going to keep on going until we make it so that he cannot enter in on any Black people.”“Farrakhan on Race, Politics and the News Media,” New York Times, April 17, 1984, https://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/17/us/farrakhan-on-race-politics-and-the-news-media.html.

Louis Farrakhan, Speech, October 8, 1985

“Jesus was hated by the Jews. Farrakhan is hated by the Jews. What did they hate Jesus for? Because he exposed their wickedness and sin.”Margot Hornblower, “Farrakhan Draws Huge Crowd,” Washington Post, October 8, 1985, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/10/08/farrakhan-draws-huge-crowd/84cbc65b-aace-42bc-9fb1-a9e2dbdb2fe0/.

Louis Farrakhan, Speech, October 8, 1985

Referring to Black leaders who denounce him:

“These silly [Uncle] Toms run out and do their masters’ duty. When a leader sells out, the Black people pay a price for that. We should make examples of these leaders.”Margot Hornblower, “Farrakhan Draws Huge Crowd,” Washington Post, October 8, 1985, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/10/08/farrakhan-draws-huge-crowd/84cbc65b-aace-42bc-9fb1-a9e2dbdb2fe0/.

Louis Farrakhan, Speech, October 8, 1985

“The germ of murder is sown in the heart of Jews across this nation.”Margot Hornblower, “Farrakhan Draws Huge Crowd,” Washington Post, October 8, 1985, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/10/08/farrakhan-draws-huge-crowd/84cbc65b-aace-42bc-9fb1-a9e2dbdb2fe0/.

Louis Farrakhan, Speech, October 8, 1985

“Whatever they Jews want, they get it, and the president himself is punking out to the Jewish lobby.”Margot Hornblower, “Farrakhan Draws Huge Crowd,” Washington Post, October 8, 1985, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/10/08/farrakhan-draws-huge-crowd/84cbc65b-aace-42bc-9fb1-a9e2dbdb2fe0/.

Louis Farrakhan, Speech, October 8, 1985

“You cannot say ‘Never again’ to God because when he puts you in the oven, never again don’t mean a damn thing.”Anne Groer, “Farrakhan Tells Crowd of 20,000, ‘I Am Your Last Chance,’” Orlando Sentinel, October 8, 1985, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1985-10-08-0330340254-story.html.

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