In Ferguson, Nation of Islam members push for peace

August 25, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — Ever since Michael Brown, a young, unarmed African-American, was shot by a police officer on Aug. 9, various crews have played a part in achieving the tentative peace that has taken hold of the St. Louis suburb once rocked by protests.

Some wear black T-shirts with large white letters that spell out “Peacekeepers.” Others dress in bright orange shirts and call themselves “Clergy United.” All acknowledge that the Nation of Islam has been a key player since the very beginning.

Last week, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who took over the police security patrol in Ferguson, acknowledged on national television that the Nation of Islam and other groups — such as Black Lawyers for Justice — helped control the crowds on West Florissant Avenue. Others on social media pointed out that the Nation of Islam protected businesses from looters.

Yet, many find the Nation of Islam — a Muslim sect that dominated headlines during the civil rights era but has since diminished in prominence — problematic.

In some ways, Nation of Islam members are not unlike other Muslims. They worship Allah and pray five times a day. They also fast during Ramadan and require a pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj. But the Nation of Islam also calls for a separate nation for blacks, according to international representative Akbar Muhammad.

On Sunday (Aug. 24), Minister Louis Farrakhan, the national representative of the Nation of Islam, addressed Brown’s death directly from the religious group’s base in Chicago.