Memo To: Website fans and browsers
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Future of Islam
[The following was written for the Washington Times Editorial Page which may or may not run it. I am attending the conference at the invitation of Minister Louis Farrakhan.]
By Jude Wanniski
When Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam 33 years ago to become a Sunni Muslim, it was partly because he wished to seek racial reconciliation at a time when Elijah Muhammad was still preaching racial separation. By an extraordinary coincidence, Malcolm’s wife, Betty Shabazz, has been laid to rest the week before the Nation of Islam hosts a conference in Chicago in the spirit of Malcolm X. The conference of Islamic scholars from around the world is aimed at universal reconciliation of an Islamic faith that has been fractured almost since its inception in the early 7th century.
Louis Farrakhan, the successor to Elijah Muhammad, four months ago called the conference for this weekend, July 3-7, in the ecumenical tradition of Pope John Paul and Vatican II. He thinks of it as a first step, a prelude, to what he hopes can be an ecumenical reconciliation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to open the Third Millennium.
Indeed, Min. Farrakhan is aware of reports that Pope John Paul II hopes there can be convened a gathering of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders at the foot of Mount Sinai, on the first day of the new millennium. The controversial Muslim leader, who is conventionally viewed as an anti-Semite and bigot, has recently preached in Protestant and Catholic churches and has said he will preach in Jewish synagogues if invited.
Since I first met Louis Farrakhan last December, after a year of discussions with his ministers in Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York, I’ve come to understand him as first and foremost a spiritual and religious leader. His political leadership is inferred from his ability to summon a million black men to come to Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995, at their own expense, and vow to act as men should, as husbands and fathers and as citizens.
In dozens of hours of conversation with him, in person and on the telephone, I came to see the absurdity of the idea that he could be the “Black Hitler” that he has been labeled by the New York tabloids. I’ve watched a hundred hours of Farrakhan speeches on videotape, dating back to 1985, and find only a deep reverence for Judaism and Christianity -- which he views as the twin pillars of the Islamic faith. His criticisms of Christians and Jews invariably involve political actions of their leaders, including criticism of the Pope for “blessing the guns of Mussolini” prior to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and the passivity of Christian leaders to the Holocaust of Nazi Germany.
How many Americans understand that the Islamic faith flows from the law of Abraham and Moses and that the Koran, the Islamic bible, is said to have been revealed to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel? If it were not for Judaism, Christianity would not exist, and if not for Judaism and Christianity, Islam would not exist. Min. Farrakhan views Judaism as the source of religious belief in one God, which Jews call Jehovah, Christians call the Father, and Muslims call Allah.
Of these three faiths, Min. Farrakhan points out, Judaism is the oldest and has provided the basic laws and commandments of the one God. Christianity is the most evangelical of the three faiths. Islam, which is founded on the ideas of the other two religions, has never attempted to evangelize among Christians or Jews. Their evangelical tradition is limited to pagans, people of no faith at all.
Islam, says Farrakhan, is “the most ecumenical” of the great monotheistic religions. On the "Larry King Show" the night of the Million Man March, King asked Farrakhan if he was anti-Semitic, and Farrakhan answered: “I am a Jew,” by which he meant his spiritual beliefs rest on Judaic law and prophecy. (Earlier this year, when Yasir Arafat was asked by Larry King how he could ever hope to get along with the Jews of the Middle East, Arafat smiled broadly and told King that “In order to be a good Muslim, you first had to be a good Jew and a good Christian.”) It is the politics that gets in the way of reconciliation of the faiths.
For at least 12 years, Farrakhan has been moving in the direction that Malcolm X charted just before his death. On a 1985 Phil Donahue show, he talked about the Nation’s mission in the United States being primarily devoted to elevating the black family -- but that he hoped there would come a time when the mission could be devoted to all mankind.
He now believes that time has come, which is why he traveled last year after the Million Man March through the countries of Islamic and black Africa. It is why on the first anniversary of the Million Man March he called for a gathering of followers at the plaza of the United Nations -- urging all nations to concentrate on how to reconcile the global divisions that separate races, ethnic groups and religions. It is why he is having this conference in Chicago this weekend.