The rewards of incivility

June 02, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane

SIX DAYS before he was shot while delivering a speech at the University of California at Riverside, Khallid Muhammad, the former national spokesman for the Nation of Islam, appeared in a pre-taped session of the "Donahue" show. Anyone who saw the show May 23 would not have been surprised by the events of May 29.

During the show Mr. Muhammad expressed love for Colin Ferguson, the man accused of killing whites and Asians on a commuter train in New York. In an analogy drawn by those who hover perilously close to the lunatic fringe, he confided that he loved Colin Ferguson just as white America loved its killers -- Generals Schwarzkopf, Westmoreland, Patton, MacArthur and Eisenhower.

So suspect number one in the shooting might have been some neo-Nazi or skinhead type who took Mr. Muhammad at his word that white America and black America are in a shooting war in which soldiers from each side are expected to go out and gun down unarmed civilians.

It would be unlike Mr. Muhammad to go an entire hour without hurling some bit of invective against Jews. And so he did. Phil Donahue played a segment of a Muhammad speech in which he referred to the "hook-nosed, bagel-eatin', lox-eatin', imposter-perpetrating-a-fraud, johnny-come-lately, just-crawled-out-of-the-caves-and-hills-of-Europe wannabe Jew . . ."

Since Mr. Muhammad repeated the phrase at Cal-Riverside in his Sunday speech, we can only assume it must be one of his favorites. So suspect number two might have been some TC member of the Jewish Defense League whipped into a state of high dudgeon after hearing the insult one too many times.

Folks on the lunatic fringe, you see, often have a fatal attraction for one another. Thus it came as no surprise that the suspect in the Muhammad shooting turned out to be a former Nation of Islam minister -- one James Edward Best. Violence in the Nation of Islam is nothing new.

When I mentioned that obvious and well-documented fact in an op-ed piece a while back, some folks in the Nation of Islam pretended not to know what I was talking about. One wrote to me from Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Waheed S. Al-'Araby took issue with my assertion that a hit squad from the Newark, N.J., mosque of the Nation of Islam assassinated Malcolm X in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.

"I challenge Mr. Kane to produce any evidence to support this one more deranged innuendo," Dr. Al-'Araby sneered.

I don't need any evidence. I've got something even better -- a confession from the only man arrested at the scene of the crime and convicted for it. Talmadge Hayer's confession has been on record for some time now. I urge members of the Nation of Islam to give it a careful reading.

But the Malcolm X assassination is only the most famous example of factional violence spawned by disputes within the Nation of Islam. Others are:

* The beating of Aubrey Barnette, the secretary of the Boston mosque in 1964. Mr. Barnette left the Nation of Islam at about the same time as Malcolm X. (Louis Farrakhan -- then Louis X of the Boston mosque -- called Mr. Barnette a "bourgeois Negro" for asserting his independence.)

Mr. Barnette wrote an expose for the Saturday Evening Post that same year describing how top Nation of Islam officials were fleecing their followers. For his trouble, Mr. Barnette received a fractured vertebra, broken ribs and ankle and kidney damage from the beating.

* The beating of another Malcolm X ally, Leon 4X Ameer, in a Boston hotel in December 1964 by a Nation of Islam goon squad. Mr. Ameer was left unconscious in the bathtub of his hotel room with broken ribs and ruptured eardrums.

* The murder of Hanafi Muslims in Washington, D.C., in January of 1973 by eight members of the Nation of Islam's Philadelphia mosque. The target of the attack was Amaas Abdul Khaalis, a former minister of the Nation of Islam who had been critical of then-leader Elijah Muhammad. Mr. Khaalis wasn't home, so the thugs took their wrath out on his family and members of his sect.

Mr. Khaalis' 10-year-old son was shot in the head and killed. His 23-year-old daughter was also shot in the head but survived. Two other sect members were shot, one fatally. Most tragic and despicable of all was the drowning of three infants whom the murderers found in Mr. Khaalis' home.

Yet Mr. Al-'Araby took issue with a claim in my earlier column suggesting that the Nation of Islam has only been violent with black people. He ordered me to apologize publicly to Louis Farrakhan, which I intend to do -- one split second before hell freezes over.

As for Mr. Farrakhan's former national spokesman -- who is recovering in a Riverside hospital -- perhaps he has learned that vitriolic language only attracts members of the lunatic fringe. Some of them may be for you today and against you tomorrow. As Khallid Muhammad recovers from his wounds, we can only hope that he has learned the value of keeping a civil tongue in his head.

Gregory P. Kane is a reporter for The Evening Sun.

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