"The white man is the devil."
This is what Malcolm X used to say.
"I shall never rest until I have undone the harm I did."
This is what Malcolm X came to believe.
What changed such a divisive and hate-filled man into someone who fought for racial harmony?
After performing the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj, Malcolm X wrote in 1964, "There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white."
Meanwhile in Florida, half a century after Malcolm's passing, the death of a 17-year-old unarmed African American, Trayvon Martin, at the hands of a half-white man makes one wonder: Where is the Christian Hajj?
For a change, please resist the temptation to reject the whole argument since it's coming from a Muslim. And let's not make a big deal out of the fact that the killer (George Zimmerman), a catholic altar boy, was half-white. Instead focus on the next Trayvon Martin. We all know he exists. We all know he is not a criminal. We all know he will be shot by a white man. So do we have a platform where Christians from all races can gather to change deadly stereotypes?
Far from it.
Forget about a universal gathering; the multiracial congregation project shows that Christians are failing to even bring all racial hues to the local pews. More than 92 percent of American congregations are not multiracial (where the term "multiracial" is defined as a congregation having no more than 80 percent of any one racial group.) Churches in some areas are 20 times more segregated than the nearby public schools. Things haven't changed much from half a century ago, when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, "The most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning."
So it's fair to ask: How come Muslims -- despite their problems -- have recognized man as man, but Christians, who believe in a man embodying the turning of the cheek, could not protect so many Trayvons?
The conclusion is inescapable: the white church -- not the state -- has failed to instill true love for the black race by answering fundamental biblical questions. Questions like, how could all human races come from Noah, his three sons and his wives? Are black people the result of a curse on Ham? Does the Scripture prohibit interracial marriage?
That apathy is so palpable after Trayvon Martin's death as much of the outcry is emanating from black America. In Florida, students from 19 predominantly black high schools demonstrated to demand justice. Across the nation, only black church leaders are calling for Zimmerman's arrest. Even the White House, according to an official Twitter feed, invited only black faith leaders to learn more about government services.
There are reasons for it. Starting from Billy Graham's mercurial positions on race relations to the interracial lethargy of the Christian Telegraph's "Ten Most Influential Christian Leaders," none has attempted to take on race relations as a calling. Despite their international clout, none of white Christian leaders have attempted to engineer a "Christian Hajj."
The Muslim Hajj, while commanded by God, truly became a symbol of unity and brotherhood by the call of Prophet Muhammad, who in 630 C.E. declared in front of a multiracial gathering of 100,000 Muslims, "a white man has no superiority over a black man nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action."
Trayvon's death is an opportunity for white church leaders to make it their calling, as it has been done before. White Quakers, white Methodists, white Presbyterians and white Catholics have all argued that Christianity and slavery were incompatible. Abolition would carry over into the Civil Rights Era, with millions of white Christian-Americans rejecting any notion of racial superiority. And if it weren't for millions upon millions of white voters in 2008, we would not be saying "President Barack Obama."
We all know a Zimmerman exists in the future. We all know he is white, prejudiced and armed. As a first step, that future Zimmerman must experience interracial harmony at his church or he will shoot, subconsciously believing the black man is the devil.
Dr. Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty member for religion and history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He can be reached at Faheem.Younus@Ahmadiyya.us
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