Malcolm X, a minister and activist heralded by many as one of the prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, was also an intellect and champion for human rights around the world, not just Black Americans.
X was — and to some people remains — a controversial figure because of his resistance to the idea of non-violence under all circumstances.
On January 5, 1965, several weeks before he was assassinated, the civil rights leader sat down with several panelists for an interview on the CBC program “Front Page Challenge.” X explained to the all-White panel his beliefs and objectives, dispelling rumors about contention with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the general public’s misunderstandings about Black Muslims.
Host: Sir, what was… what’s the real reason why you two men split? Is it merely ideological, or is it personality, what else?
X: Probably personality. It was not the statement that originally was given by movement when we split. More personality than anything else.
Host: You’ve called people like Martin Luther King who just got a Nobel Peace Prize an Uncle Tom. Is that correct, first?
X: Well, I’d rather today that in the states, there’s a law that has recently been passed or a decision handed down by the court where if you call someone an Uncle Tom they can sue you for libel. So I never refer to them as Uncle Tom’s so I would say that Uncle Martin is my friend.
Host: Uncle Martin is your friend yet you would disagree with his approach to what he wants to accomplish.
X: Definitely. If his approach would bring about what the Black man in America needs to completely eliminate the problem we have then I would say ‘well and good’ but I very much doubt anyone who adopts the approach that Martin Luther King has been teaching to people in that country can point to any meaningful gains that has actually served to solve the problem.
Host: Black Muslims have sometimes, whether you have or not and think you probably have, have sometimes seemed to me preaching hate to meet hate.
X: I don’t advocate any kind of hate.
Host: But there are a lot of talk that sounds very much like hate.
X: No, I think the guilt complex of the American white man is so profound til when you begin to analyze the real condition of the Black man in America instead of the American white man eliminating the causes that create that condition he tries to cover it up by accusing his accusers of teaching hate. But really they are just exposing him for being responsible for what exists.
Host: Well, that’s something of an argument. I’ve heard speeches made by some of the people of your group. I think I’ve heard you make speeches. It seems to me you are advocating violence to meet the serious injuries that have been done to your people with which I totally agree.
X: I don’t call that violence. I don’t in anyway encourage Black people so go out and initiate acts of aggression indiscriminately against Whites. But I do believe that the Black man in the United States, any human being, anywhere is well within this right to do whatever is necessary, by any means necessary to protect his life and property, especially in a country where the federal government itself has proven it is either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property of those human beings.
Host: Just before [inaudible] you got a pretty good fighter in the world’s heavyweight champion lined up to help out.
Panelist: Mr. X, I guess that’s a proper appellation, Mr. X?
Panelist: I’m wondering if you still believe, as I think you did certainly the time you were allied to the Black Muslim movement in a segregated Black nation in North America…
X: No. I don’t believe in any form of segregation or any form of racism. I’m against any form of segregation and against racism.
Panelist: Is it right in saying the Black Muslim movement, which you have left, did believe in that?
X: Well, Elijah Mohammad taught his followers that the only solution was a separate state for Black people, and as long as I thought he genuinely believed that himself, I believed him and believed in his solution. But when I began to doubt that he himself believed that that was feasible, and I saw no kind of action designed to bring it into existence or bring it about, then I turned in a different direction.
Panelist: Are you still a Muslim yourself?
X: Yes. I’m a Muslim. I believe in the religion of Islam, which believes in brotherhood, complete brotherhood of all people. But at the same time that I believe in brotherhood I don’t believe in forcing my desire for brotherhood upon those who aren’t willing to accept it.
Panelist: Christians would also say they believe in brotherhood. What would you say to that?
X: I’d say they believe in it but don’t practice it.
Panelist: Pretty good answer.
Panelist 2: Sir, when the muezzin goes up in the minaret, twice a day, he cries to the world there is but one God and he is Allah. Do you deny that there is a Christian God?
X: The muezzin does this five times a day…
Panelist 2: Five times? Then I only heard him twice.
X: Well you were fortunate to hear him twice. But he does this five times a day and the same God that he says that he expresses the existence of is the God that the Christian profess to believe in themselves, and the God that the Jews believe in. One God. The creator of the universe. The Muslims believe in the God that created the universe and I think the Christians do, and the Jews do. Now, as long as all of them are talking about the Creator, the Jews may call him Jehovah and Christians may have another name for him. Those who are Arabic speaking refer to him as Allah. Well, we believe in the same God.
Panelist 2: Now, as the Muslim religion advances in the United States, are you modernizing it or sticking with the old faiths? For example, the segregation of the sexes?
X: I think that everything today on this earth is being modernized. Religious principles and practices, as well as political and other things.
Panelist 2: Now, when you went to Mecca, this was a very sacred and forbidden city. I certainly tried to get to Mecca myself and certainly didn’t make it, not being a Muslim, but how would they accept you as one? You’re an American. There are few American Muslims.
X: This is true, and by being an American, not having any… not being able to speak the Arabic language, I did strike a snag, a very serious snag but I was fortunate to have been pretty well known by the officials in Arabia and they knew too that I had accepted orthodox Islam, which had been highly publicized in the paper and I became a guest of the state. I was a guest of Prince Fisal and they made it possible for me to go before before the Haj committee or Haj court who examines you and asks you questions about your belief, and if you pass it, you are OK to go to Mecca, but it’s true.
Panelist 2: You would have to have a translator.
X: Oh, I had one.
Panelist 2: Betty?
Panelist 3: Mr. X, since your split with the Black Muslim movement, have you formed your own group…
Panelist 3: And, also you say that you don’t believe Martin Luther King has solutions. What are your solutions?
X: Well, first we form two groups. The split resulted in the formation of two groups. Those who left the Black Muslim movement regrouped into what has now become known as the Muslim Mosque Incorporated, which is strictly religious based upon the religion that is taught in Cairo, Mecca, and other centers of religious… Islamic religious learning. Then we are realizing that our problem in America, Black Americans, and we have a problem that goes beyond religion. We formed an organization known as the Afro American Unity, and the objective of this organization is non-religious, Number 1, any negro can belong to it, and the objective of that organization is to bring about a condition that will guarantee respect and recognition of the 22 million Black Americans as human beings and…
Panelist: That’s very laudable but how?
X: Well, by any means necessary. We feel that the problem, Number 1, of the Black man in America, is beyond America’s ability to solve. It’s a human problem not an American problem or a negro problem. And as a human problem or a world problem, we feel that it should be taken out of the jurisdiction of the United States government, and United States court, and taken into the United Nations in the same manner that the problems of the Black man in South Africa, in Angola and other parts of the world, and even the way they are trying to bring the problem of the Jews in Russia into the United Nations because of the violation of Human Rights. We believe our problem is not one of a violation of civil rights but a violation of human rights. Not only are we denied the right to be a citizen in the United States, we are denied the right to be a human being.
Host: Mr. X, may I thank you very much for coming on our program and perhaps clearing away some of the cob webs of misconception this may have had about your belief and I think you’re a very sincere man, and it takes a lot of courage to admit a former belief is wrong and we congratulate you for that and the service you performed tonight in giving us your views. Thank you so much.
X: Thank you.
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