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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | ABDUR-RAHMAN MUHAMMAD

December 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Feature

‘I consider Malcolm X to be an American hero’

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is an independent scholar based in Washington, D.C. He is a historian, journalist, writer, and activist — widely regarded as one of the most respected authorities on the life and legacy of civil rights-era leader Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz).

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad

Muhammad received his education at Howard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Inspired by the life and example of Malcolm X, Muhammad accepted Islam in 1986 and worked as an activist, teacher. and imam, dedicated to reforming lives and making a positive contribution to the struggle of African-American people in their quest for justice.

Muhammad has devoted over thirty years to his studies, and his articles have appeared in many newspapers, scholarly journals, and his own blog, A Singular Voice. He became an outspoken critic of religious extremism and was invited to Capitol Hill to offer his thoughts on how to combat it in our nation.

As an expert, Muhammad assisted Dr. Manning Marable of Columbia University in the biography entitled “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” and he went on to publish the explosive revelation of the identity of William Bradley, aka Al-Mustafa Shabazz: the alleged shotgun assassin of Malcolm X. Muhammad’s identification of Bradley was reported in many major newspapers in the country — including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Newark Star Ledger.

Muhammad is featured in the documentary entitled, “Who Killed Malcolm X?” that aired on Fusion in 2019 and began streaming on Netflix the following year.

Historians and commentators universally agree that “Who Killed Malcolm X?” was directly responsible for the re-investigation of the assassination by former Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance and the exoneration of two innocent men after 55 years. Both Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam served over twenty years for the murder before being cleared of all charges on November 18, 2021.

Las Vegas Black Image Magazine was invited by the Las Vegas Clark County Library District to conduct an exclusive interview with Muhammad before his live appearances in Las Vegas — set for the Sahara West Library (January 20) and the West Las Vegas Library (January 21).

What inspired you to do heavy research on the assassination of Malcolm X?

Well, that’s a very easy question for me to answer. When I became a part of the Muslim community in 1986, when I converted to the traditional Islam — then that put me into certain settings where I was able to acquire more intimate knowledge about the assassination of Malcolm X. I explored different clues, I should say, that helped me piece things together over the years. I should say, an intimacy with the community, an understanding of its culture and its language and the way information circulates around in terms of what to take as credible and the things that are not credible. I would say more than anything is that I really felt I could get to the bottom of who really assassinated Malcolm X.

What is the modern day interpretation of Malcolm X and how the world perceives him?

It has definitely evolved over the years. Sometimes in the 1990s, Malcolm’s image was put on a United States stamp. You don’t get much more rehabilitated than that to have your image on a postage stamp. It’s not just white people who might have a distorted interpretation of Malcolm X — there are also some Black people who also struggle with what they think he represented. A lot of them misunderstand Malcolm, and the reason for that is because he was constantly evolving. And so when you are talking about Malcolm, you have to indicate what period in his life you are referencing. That will tell you his position at that moment as it relates to race, politics and struggles for Black liberation in America. It just depends on what period of his life you are looking at, and that makes it very difficult — especially for some white people— to grasp where he finally landed in terms of his ideology.

That can be said about many American heroes. Do you consider Malcolm X an American hero?

Yes, I do consider Malcolm X to be an American hero. I consider him one of the most courageous American leaders that this country ever produced.

What do you think Malcolm X meant to humanity and the country?

Malcolm X was a truth teller. He was frank and brutal with the truth. He felt that the only way that a problem could be solved — in this instance I’m referring to what can be called the “race problem” — was that Black men had to put their case on the table. And the white man had to put his case on the table and they had to hammer it out and work it out. They had to look at it and sort it out together — brutally and frankly. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used flowery language and Malcolm was very straightforward in his articulation of the truth and the grim struggle African American men and women were fighting in the 1950s and 1960s. He didn’t let white people off the hook during the civil rights period and he wasn’t talking about loving white people, he was more interested in Black people loving themselves. In those days, many Black people didn’t speak like Malcolm spoke. He was honest, frank, and blunt in telling the white man exactly how the Negro really thought. Malcolm wanted the white establishment to know the “Negro” was not happy and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities, violence and discrimination that was taking place.

What is the biggest misconception about Malcolm X?

As he evolved, he was a solution-oriented leader. There are two extremes when dealing with conflict resolution. You can have a loud and boisterous extreme that is emotional and not willing to sit down to a table to formulate solutions. And there is another extreme that sits down to the table with people who disagree with you to formulate policies, reforms and things of that nature. Malcolm would have taken the moderate middle even though he was considered a militant leader — at the end of the day he was intellectual and a very rational man. He was looking for solutions. I can’t remember verbatim what he once said — but in short, it was something like, “I’m not Catholic, I’m not socialist. I’m for whatever brings solutions — I’m for freedom, whatever will get us there.” Malcolm would take the moderate middle. That is also the Muslim way to be moderate.

What is the biggest takeaway from the “Who Killed Malcolm X” documentary?

The biggest takeaway was the revelation that there were five men all together who killed Malcolm X. Two of the men created a disturbance at the William Fox Audubon theatre on February 21, 1965 for Malcolm to be assassinated. And three men were the shooters who sat in the front row of the theater. William Bradley was the principal shooter who assassinated Malcolm X. But, the documentary solidifies that there are three entities that played a major role in Malcolm’s assassination. That includes the federal Government, the New York Police and the Nation of Islam. There was a confluent intersection of like interests. All three had their motives for Malcolm’s death and we show that in the Netflix documentary series.

For additional information visit Abdur-Rahman Muhammad’s website at: Abdur-RahmanMuhammad.com.

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