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.
August 21, 2014
They’re hoping to use black disenchantment as a recruiting tool.
You can understand if President Obama would rather talk about the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq, where he has scored some victories, than talk about the unholy mess in Ferguson, Mo. Surprisingly, though, ISIS militants are following developments in the St. Louis suburb, and some of them would rather focus on that. According to interviews and social media, members of the group and sympathizers with its jihadist ideology are closely tracking the events in the St. Louis suburb, where protesters and police have clashed. In it, they see opportunity.
Partly, the focus is strategic: Officers in Ferguson have used military transports and weapons similar to those used by U.S. troops in Iraq. But militants are also claiming vindication — that their arguments about American oppression were right all along. “Well this clearly shows that all this talk about democracy and equality of people in the west is just hypocrisy,” said Abu Sameer after a private autopsy sought by the family of Michael Brown showed that the 18-year-old had been shot at least six times. Abu Sameer lives in France and identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State, a group that has conducted a campaign of mass killings and other atrocities in northern Iraq.
The Islamic State and other jihadist movements are using the events outside St. Louis as propaganda against the West. One argument they’ve been making for years is that racism and discrimination are rampant in some parts of the West, and they’re hoping the Ferguson riots could help recruit black Americans. “In Islam there is no racism, and we think black people will wake up and follow the example of Malcolm X and others who understood that this way is the only way to justice,” said Abu Mansour, who lives in Germany and is also a follower of the Islamic State.
All of the jihadists interviewed said Brown’s death confirms their beliefs that blacks are seen as second-class citizens by whites and especially by the police. “I think that blacks in the U.S. will look more towards Islam,” said Anjem Choudary from Great Britain, co-founder of the banned “al-Muhajiroun” group. (Choudary’s teacher, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was barred from Britain and is currently in a Lebanese jail for his alleged support of jihadist movements in Syria and Iraq.) “The only way of life today that does not look at race is in fact Islam. Islam only distinguished people by whether they are Muslim or not. The color of their skin does not play a role,” Choudary said in a phone interview.
August 14, 2014
CAIR today called on imams (prayer leaders) nationwide to devote at least a portion of their khutbas (sermons) for tomorrow’s weekly congregational prayers (jummah) to the issues of racial equality and social justice.
That request comes in the wake of racial turmoil resulting from the fatal police shooting on Saturday of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri. Police claim the unarmed Brown had struggled for an officer’s gun in a patrol car before he was killed, but witnesses said Brown, who is African-American, had his hands up when he was shot. Brown’s death triggered angry demonstrations, as well as vandalism and looting.
CAIR’s St. Louis chapter joined calls for a federal investigation into the shooting.
“Despite progress in race relations over the past decades, our nation still has a long way to go to live up to the true American values of equality and justice for all,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We need a serious and deep national conversation about how to heal these wounds, starting with all of us as individuals, family members and community leaders.”