In a vicious flourish of lies, distortions and false characterizations the Washington Examiner has published a full-frontal assault on one of Black America’s most cherished institutions-the Nation of Islam. To be more specific, the Nation of Islam’s legendary Prison Reform Ministry. Yes,the same Prison Reform Ministry that was started by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad with over 80 of his male followers who were imprisoned in 1942 because of their religious beliefs; the same prison ministry that produced Minister Malcolm X as well as thousands of other men and women who emerged from their time of confinement in prison, to serve as luminaries in their various fields of endeavor.
In Dawn Marie Gibson’s book, devoted to an academic study of the men who are students of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, she includes the following testimony from a brother identified as Charles X to serve as the introductory epigraph to chapter 2 of her book: The Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and the Men Who Follow Him:
“In prison they had DVDs of the Minister at that time and they had DVDs playing in the chapel called “Obedience Is the Highest Form of Sacrifice.” My attraction was to the brothers who were in the Nation; they were so clean and lean and in prison we all had the same uniform, but they were different and I was attracted to the discipline of these men. My mother came to visit me in the prison and she said my whole demeanor and attitude was different. She looked at me and she said, “Baby, I don’t know what you’re doing but keep doing it.” I read Message to the Blackman and I felt so strong and powerful and it made me really want to be somebody…I stopped all sport and play and it was serious business for me from that point on…I went to prison a drug dealer and with no love for anybody and when I got into the teachings I fell in love with Black people.”
Perhaps Alana Goodman, who wrote the article, is not aware of just how beloved the Nation of Islam is to the Black community. Perhaps she doesn’t have the cultural sensitivity to understand the significance of Islam in America’s prisons as one of the singular most effective means by which young Black men and women find themselves and begin the journey to spiritual reformation.
It was the Nation of Islam’s Prison Reform Ministry that Tupac rapped about in his legendary anthem “I ain’t mad at ya” a song where he narrates that which has become a common cultural norm in the Black communities when a family member is convicted of a crime, goes to prison and experiences a life transformation resulting from their encounter with the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
The experience of Brother Charles X, is a common one. And this article will rebut the propaganda piece written by Ms. Goodman and condemn it on behalf of all in the Black community who love their brothers, cousins, sons, nephews, nieces, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands and childhood friends who became better men and women as a result of their experience with the life giving teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan during their time of incarceration.
We proceed forth with important facts that the Washington Examiner omitted.
Throughout our history of bettering the lives of the incarcerated, testimonies like the following articles and letters published in the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper have been characteristic of the NOI Prison Ministry Reform.
The success of the Nation of Islam, as we shall explore in this book, is due to two interconnected factors. First, the Nation of Islam has provided an effective prison-bound mechanism of protection to those who convert to its brand of Islam. Second, the literature of the Nation of Islam claims that not only has it converted a large number of inmates to Islam, but has also successfully reintegrated them into its social and economic infrastructures thus preventing them from recidivating and being re-incarcerated. Accordingly, this transformation from a convicted-felon to a rehabilitated Muslim convert takes place through several stages as prospective convert-inmates are taken under the Nation of Islam’s prison-bound protective networks to be gradually assimilated into the Nation’s version of Islam based on the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the founder and the spiritual leader. -Hamid Reza Kusha, Islam in America’s Prisons, Black Muslims’ Challenge to American Penology
During the 1960s and 1970s, Black Muslim prisoners were primary actors in the process of filing legal actions to obtain judicial recognition and enforcement of a limited range of constitutional rights for incarcerated offenders (King, 1969). The Muslim prisoners are widely recognized for their important role, as evidenced by commentators’ characterizations of them as “the major catalyst” (“Constitutional Rights,” 1962, p. 999), those “who carried the torch of [B]lack protest” (Jacobs, 1983, p. 36), and “the fuse to this legal explosion” (Cripe, 1977, p. 31). Despite this recognition of their importance, further analysis of the details of their role has been called a “high priority for building a body of research on prisoners’ rights” (Jacobs, 1983, p. 36). The Muslim prisoners’ cases have had a profound impact upon the entire correctional system, both because they helped to change the existing relationships between “keeper” and “kept” during the 1960s and because they provided the legal vehicles for all incarcerated persons to attempt to vindicate their constitutional rights. The development of the Black Muslims and their assertive doctrines coincided with the federal courts’ increased receptivity to demands for recognition and protection by various political minorities throughout American society. The simultaneous development of these phenomena, influenced by common factors in the changing political and social environment of the 1950s and 1960s, resulted in the significant expansion of constitutional protections for prisoners and transformed the previously deferential relationship between the judiciary and state correctional agencies. – Black Muslims and the Development of Prisoners’ RightsAuthor(s): Christopher E. SmithSource: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Dec., 1993), pp. 131-146Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Below is the publicly available course of study that serves as the primary teachings and curriculum for the Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry
What really proves that Ms. Goodman is on assignment to produce a progaganda piece is that at no point does she endeavor to explain why the Nation of Islam, which is comprised of tax-paying American citizens who have a right to do lawful business with the federal government, is receiving contract proceeds for their prison ministry work. So to educate the public about contract chaplains, lets take at look at how the Corrections Industry defines the need and purspose of religious contract service providers.
“There are a variety of possible scenarios in which a chaplain may be required to use outside contractors. In some situations, a contractor may be hired to conduct religious worship services that fall outside of the chaplain’s own denomination. For example, a Protestant chaplain may hire a contract imam to perform worship services for the Islamic inmates if there is no Muslim chaplain on staff to meet this need. Outside contractors of the same faith background as the chaplain may also be recruited in the following instances: the prison chaplain is a lay person who is not allowed to perform certain, liturgical duties; there is an inordinately large number of inmates of that faith background who require multiple worship services a week; or the prison’s physical layout is such that separate worship services are needed such as in a high-rise building.
A signification portion of most U.S. prison chaplaincy budgets are earmarked for the hiring of contractor services. However, due to budgetary considerations, contractors are recruited in most cases only when there is a critical mass of inmates requiring their services. For example, a prison chaplain could not divert resources to hiring a contract rabbi if there was only one Jewish inmate in the institution. Instead, the staff chaplain would have to meet the religious worship needs of the Jewish inmate by either coordinating a volunteer rabbi or the inmate’s own rabbi to come in and perform the necessary liturgical duties for the inmate.
Paul Rodgers is president of the American Correctional Chaplains’ Association and the fulltime chaplain at Dodge Correctional Institution, a state prison in Waupan, Wisconsin. In his role as chaplain, Rodgers uses contractors to fill the unmet religious worship needs of various groups of inmates. The faith backgrounds and worship needs of incoming inmates are generally determined by having them fill out a Religious Preference Form when they enter the institution. Although the majority of inmates at Dodge Correctional Institution come from mostly Protestant backgrounds (i.e., mainly Lutheran and Methodist), there is a sizable enough Catholic population that Rodgers contracts Catholic priests to meet the religious worship needs of the Catholic inmates on a weekly basis. Rodgers himself is Catholic, but as a layman chaplain cannot perform mass or serve the Eucharist.
There are only 25–40 Jews among the 20,000 men and women who are incarcerated in the state of Wisconsin. In addition, Muslims, Buddhists, Native Americans, and those belonging to other religious groups represent only a small fraction of the state’s total prisoner population. To meet the needs of these religious minorities, the state of Wisconsin’s corrections system hires individual contractors to travel throughout the state to a number of prisons to perform religious services for these underserved groups. Chaplain Rodgers, as well as other prison ministers, also use volunteer clergy from these various faith traditions to help serve the religious minorities within Wisconsin’s state prison system. In conclusion, contractors as well as volunteers help to meet the worship needs of prisoners at many penal institutions. Even though staff prison chaplains are obliged to foster an interfaith, impartial environment and to provide counseling and crisis intervention to inmates of all faith traditions, contract ministers are often required to assist them, if the prison holds a particularly diverse population. By supplementing the work of prison chaplains, contractors and volunteers ensure that a prisoner’s right to religious observation are upheld.” —Jeneve Brooks-Klinger, Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities
Author Mark S. Hamm discusses the the hidden history of how Nation of Islam Muslims protected hostages during the Attica uprising: “Beginning on September 9, 1971, Muslim prisoners swiftly organized themselves in order to protect forty-three guards taken hostage during the legendary Attica prison rebellion in upstate New York. Five grueling days later, during which time three prisoners were stabbed to death after being marked as snitches, twenty-nine prisoners and ten guards were killed by the crossfire of two hundred attacking New York State troopers in a bungled attempt to retake the facility. At this perilous moment, an agreement to end the siege was mediated by two Moorish Science prisoners, Carl Jones-El and Donald Noble, and a loquacious Nation of Islam prisoner from the Virgin Islands named Herbert Blyden X.40 On September 15, the brother of a slain guard appeared on the CBS Evening News to tell Walter Cronkite that he “no longer considered inmates animals” after hearing that Black Muslims had helped save the hostages.41 Nevertheless, afterward, the riot police roamed the Attica yard, beating and torturing scores of naked inmates, many of whom were seriously wounded.”- Mark S. Hamm, The Spectacular Few
The work of the Nation of Islam, is a great benefit and blessing to the American Penal System. The history, as we have shown, is overwhelming what we have been blessed to achieve.
Instead of U. S. Representative Peter T. King and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potock condemning the Nation of Islam, they should leave us alone. The Nation of Islam, which is comprised of tax paying citizens, has a right to do business with the American government. As effective as Minister Farrakhan’s message is and has been, it should be supported with the resources it needs to remain a strong presence within the prison system.
The Black community has been ravaged by the War on Drugs. And the prisons of America have had exponential growth since the early 1980s despite the fact there has not been an equivalent rise in violent crime. Academics, historians, social scientists and informed citizens all agree that it was through the Iran-Contra scandal that cocaine and the Crack cocaine epidemic was given its genesis. And as a result, many promising young men and women have become causalities of the so-called War on Drugs. Many are either dead or in prison. In the Nation of Islam, we are taught and trained to love our people. We are taught to look beyond their faults, sins and impediments. Minister Farrakhan teaches us this. And we carry this attitude with us as we engage with those who are incarcerated. This kind of training gives birth to an attitude of service and compassion for when we see our people in the prisons we think “there, but for the grace of Allah(God), is me.” This is the attitude of a savior.
The United States Government should help us to save our people; because history has documented that so much has come forth from the United States Government to put our people in the miserable condition that many of us are in.
You should instead of trying to hurt Minister Farrakhan and his students; you should consider it an atonement before God to help us in the divine work to renew,restore and redeem our people.