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Malcom X

Malcolm X: The Religious Rebel


An icon of the civil rights struggle, Malcolm X left an important legacy worth knowing about.

This past 19th of May was the 88th anniversary of El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz, popularly known as Malcolm X, a public speaker, religious minister and African-American civil rights activist. After the traumatic murder of his father (a labour rights defendant in Nebraska), Malcolm Little Norton was separated from his mother, who was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, and started living in foster homes. He was only 14 years old.

After moving around from household to household, he became involved with the lowly dwellers of Boston and New York, and in 1945 was condemned to 8 to 10 years in prison due to crimes related to drug trafficking, theft and prostitution. While he was imprisoned he converted to Islam, and after receiving his conditional freedom he actively participated in the religion’s American ministry.

Over the following years, Malcolm X travelled to the Mecca and around different countries. Upon his return to the United States, he founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. as well as the Afro-American Unit Organisation.

But where does the true calling for revelry come from? What does being a rebel mean and why should we consider Malcolm X to be one?

Rebelling does not exclusively imply we question the current state of affairs, but that we have to arduously work for their modification. A rebel works for what he considers to be real, as well as trying to make others find the “gene of revelry” in themselves. This is what Malcolm experienced in the Massachusetts’ State Penitentiary.

It’s common to associate Malcolm X with the autobiographic film and with his sad assassination before taking the stand during a public conference in New York. However his true conviction is often overlooked. Just as in the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, where a prisoner finds in wisdom and education the door towards freedom, Malcolm met John Elton Bembry in prison, who convinced Malcolm of educating himself, leading the latter to develop a voracious appetite for reading.

The famous ‘X’ replacing his last name was adopted in 1952. It was common practice for Islam followers to replace their last name with an X’, used instead of the African last name that slave descendants would never know. To Malcolm, the “’X’ replaced the white slave master name of ‘Little’ which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears.”

This ‘X’ can also imply the consciousness of the very formation of man, taking into our own hand our personal development as if by saying that by changing our last name to ‘X’ we will not accept any attribute that does not belong directly to us.

Malcolm rebelled once more, this time against the Nation of Islam, who censured his comments centred on President Kennedy’s assassination in 1964. The rigidity of the religious teachings and the control over the comments by Islamic Nation’s members led Malcolm X to finally and definitely break away with the organisation that got him out jail.

Malcolm X received threats repeatedly throughout the years, and days before the firearm finally took his life, his house was set on fire. An estimated 14 to 30 thousand people went to his funeral. Numerous conspiracy theories and plots (involving the FBI and high Islamic orders) have come to light over the years. Three of the main suspects were found guilty and had to serve prison sentences, they were eventually released, despite never having reached a satisfying conclusion behind the motives and the plan to assassinate Malcolm X.

Similarly to the great leaders throughout history like Socrates, Jesus or Buddha, Malcolm X’s philosophy is evidenced primarily through his speeches and oral statements. Unlike Gandhi, for example, Malcolm X believed that Afro-American populations had to employ force to keep their freedom; despite these radical statements, his philosophy was based on the recognition of civil rights for everybody, as well as the freedom to practice any religion.

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