The Last Interview
Malcolm X, Al-Muslimoon Staff (from the
Malcolm X Museum)
Taken from Al-Muslimoon Magazine, February, 1965
note - This set of responses
to written questions from the Arabic-language monthly Al-Muslimoon,
published by the Islamic Center in Geneva, Switzerland, is the last
record of Malcolm's thinking. He wrote most of the responses the night
of the fire-bombing of his home and wrote the last two as he sat in
a Manhattan hotel the night before his death.
AL-MUSLIMOON: The Black Muslim Movement
is one of the most controversial movements in the United States. Having
been for a considerable period [of time] its main organizer and most
prominent spokesman, could you kindly give us some concise firsthand
picture of the background of this movement, its history, its main ethics
and its actual strength?
MALCOLM X: Elijah Muhammad allowed
himself to become insanely jealous of my own popularity, which went
even beyond his own followers and into the non-Muslim community, while
his own prestige and influence was limited largely among his immediate
followers. While I was still in the movement and blind to his faults
by my own uncompromising faith in him, I always thought the jealousy
and envy which I saw -- constant signs of was stemming mainly and only
from his immediate family, and it was quite shocking to me whenever
members of his own family would warn me that it was their father (Elijah
Muhammad himself) who had become almost insane with jealousy.
When Elijah learned that his son Wallace had told me
how his father had seduced his teenage secretaries (by telling them
that he was the prophet Muhammad, and making each of them think she
was to be his favorite and most beautiful wife Aisha) Elijah feared
that my position of influence in the movement was a threat to him and
his other children who were now controlling the movement and benefiting
from its wealth. Because they feared my popularity with the rank-and-file
Muslims, they were careful about any immediate or open move to curtail
my authority without good cause, so they patiently waited until they
felt that my statement about the late President Kennedy's assassination
would give them the proper public support in any kind of action they'd
take to curtail or remove me.
At the time they announced I was to be suspended and
silenced for ninety days, they had already set in motion the machinery
to have me completely ousted from the movement, and Elijah Muhammad
himself had already given the order to have me killed because he feared
I would expose to his followers the secret of his extreme immorality.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Should these differences
be of a basically ethical nature and on essential matters of faith?
What, in your opinion, are the prospects of radical reform within Elijah
Muhammad's followers now or in the future?
MALCOLM X: No, Elijah Muhammad himself
will never change. At least I doubt it. He's too old, dogmatic, and
has already gone too far in teaching that he is a greater prophet than
Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He is too proud to confess to his followers now
that he has deliberately taught them falsehood. But as his well-meaning
followers become exposed to the true religion of Islam, they themselves
will leave him and practice Islam as it should be. This is why it is
so important for centers to be established immediately where true Islam
can be taught. And these centers should be located at this time primarily
in Black communities, because at this particular time the American Blacks
are the ones showing the most interest in [the] true religion.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Have any of Elijah Muhammad's
followers left the movement with you, and do you think that your breakaway
from the movement has affected its main body in any considerable way?
MALCOLM X: Yes, many of Elijah's followers
could not go along with his present immorality, and this opened their
eyes to the other falsities of his doctrine. But we have not been able
to regroup and reorganize them as we should. It takes finance, and we
left all treasuries and properties with Elijah, and he uses this wealth
that we amassed for him to fight us and keep us from getting organized.
He is fanatically opposed to American Negroes hearing true Islam, and
has ordered his own well meaning followers to cripple or kill anyone
of his followers who wants to leave him to follow true Islam. He fears
that true Islam will expose and destroy the power of his false teachings.
AL-MUSLIMOON: Do you plan to just
stop at voicing your opposition against Elijah Muhammad and his group
or do you have any course of action in mind towards establishing some
new organization in the field? If so, on what basis and for what specific
near or distant goals?
MALCOLM X: With what little finance
we could raise, we have founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., with headquarters
here in Harlem. Our sole interest is to help undo the distorted image
[that] we have helped spread about Islam. Our mosque also is for those
who want to learn how to live the life of a true Muslim.
However, since we live as Black Americans in a white
racist society, we have established another organization which is non-religious,
known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and which is
designed to unite all Black Americans regardless of their religious
affiliation into a group that can fight against American racism and
the economic, political, and social evils that stem from white racism
here in this American society. With the Muslim Mosque we are teaching
our people a better way of life, and with the OAAU we are fighting on
an even broader level for complete respect and recognition as human
beings for all Black Americans, and we are ready and willing to use
any means necessary to see that this goal is reached.
AL-MUSLIMOON: What have you been actually
doing since you broke away from Elijah Muhammad's movement?
MALCOLM X: I have traveled to the
Middle East and Africa twice since leaving Elijah Muhammad in March
of 1964, mainly to get a better understanding of Islam and the African
countries, and in turn to give the Muslim world a better understanding
of problems facing those of us here in America who are trying to become
Muslims. Also, in Africa to give our people there a better understanding
of the problems confronting Black Americans in our struggle for human
AL-MUSLIMOON: Is it true that even
after your breakaway from Elijah Muhammad you still hold the Black color
as a main base and dogma for your drive under the banner of liberation
in the United States? How could a man of your spirit, intellect, and
worldwide outlook fail to see in Islam its main characteristic, from
its earliest days, as a message that confirms beyond doubt the ethnological
oneness and quality of all races, thus striking at the very root of
the monstrosity of racial discrimination. Endless are the texts of the
Qu'ran (Koran) and prophetic sayings to this effect and nothing would
testify to that more than the historic fact that heterogeneous races,
nations, and linguistic entities have always mingled peacefully in the
MALCOLM X: As a Black American I do
feel that my first responsibility is to my twenty-two million fellow
Black Americans who suffer the same indignities because of their color
as I do. I don't believe my own personal problem is ever solved until
the problem is solved for all twenty-two million of us.
Much to my dismay, until now, the Muslim world has
seemed to ignore the problem of the Black American, and most Muslims
who come here from the Muslim world have concentrated more effort in
trying to convert white Americans than Black Americans.
(Note by Malcolm X to Al-Muslimoon editors:
I had arrived back in the States from London at 4:30 p.m. on February
13, and had worked until 12:30 -- just after midnight -- on the above.
I got very tired at midnight, decided to leave the above pages in the
typewriter and finish early in the morning. I retired at 12:30 and exploding
bombs that were thrown into my home by would be murderers rocked me
and my wife and four baby daughters from sleep at 2:30 a.m. Only Allah
saved us from death. This is only one of the many examples of the extremes
to which the enemies of Islam will go to see that true Islam is never
established on these shores. And they know that if I was so successful
in helping to spread Elijah Muhammad's distorted version of Islam, it
is even easier for me to organize the spread of true Islam.)
There are two groups of Muslims in America: (1) those
who were born in the Muslim world and migrated here, and were already
Muslims when they arrived here. lf these total over 200,000, they have
not succeeded in converting 1,000 Americans to Islam. (2) American-born
persons who have been converted to Islam are 98 percent Black Americans.
Up to now it has been only the Black American who has shown interest
even in Sunni Islam.
If a student of agriculture has sense enough to concentrate
his farming efforts on the most fertile area of his farm, I should think
the Muslim world would realize that the most fertile area for Islam
in the West is the Black American. This in no way implies discrimination
or racialism, but rather shows that we are intelligent enough to plant
the good seed of Islam where it will grow best; later on we can "doctor
up" or fertilize the less fertile areas, but only after our crop
is already well planted in the heart and mind of these Black Americans
who already show great signs of receptiveness. Was it not Bilal, the
Black Ethiopian, who was [one of] the first to receive the seed of Islam
from the Prophet himself in Arabia 1,400 years ago?
AL-MUSLIMOON: Now that you have visited
and revisited many Muslim countries, what are your major impressions
regarding Islam and Muslims both in the present and in the future?
MALCOLM X: We are standing at the
threshold of the nuclear age. Education is a must, especially in this
highly technical era. In my opinion, Muslim religious leaders have not
stressed the importance of education to the Muslim communities, especially
in African countries. Thus when African countries become independent,
the non-Muslim areas have the higher degree of educated Africans who
are thus the ones best qualified to occupy the newly created positions
in government. Muslim religious leaders of today need a more well-rounded
type of education and then they will be able to stress the importance
of education to the masses, but ofttimes when these religious leaders
themselves have very limited knowledge, education, and understanding,
sometimes they purposely keep their own people also ignorant in order
to continue their own personal position of leadership. They keep the
people narrow-minded because they themselves are narrow-minded.
In every Middle East or African country I have visited,
I noticed the country is as '"advanced" as its women are,
or as backward as its women. By this I mean, in areas where the women
have been pushed into the background and kept without education, the
whole area or country is just as backward, uneducated, and "underdeveloped."
Where the women are encouraged to get education and play a more active
role in the allaround affairs of the community and the country, the
entire people are more active, more enlightened, and more progressive.
Thus, in my opinion, the Muslim religious leaders of today must re-evaluate
and spell out with clarity the Muslim position on education in general
and education for women in particular. And then a vast program must
be launched to elevate the standard of education in the Muslim world.
An old African proverb states: "Educate a man and you educate an
individual; educate a woman and you educate an entire family."
AL-MUSLIMOON: Africa seems to have
captured most of your attention and eager concern. Why? And now that
you have visited almost every part of it, where do you think Islam actually
stands? And what, in your opinion, could be done to save it from both
the brainlessness of many, or rather most of those who are considered
to be the champions of its cause, and from the malicious, resourceful
alliance of Zionism, atheism, and religious fanaticism against Islam?
MALCOLM X: I regard Africa as my fatherland.
I am primarily interested in seeing it become completely free of outside
political and economic influence that has dominated and exploited it.
Africa, because of its strategic position, faces a real crisis. The
colonial vultures have no intention of giving it up without a fight.
Their chief weapon is still "divide and conquer." In East
Africa there is a strong anti-Asian feeling being nourished among the
Africans. In West Africa there is a strong anti-Arab feeling. Where
there are Arabs or Asians there is a strong anti-Muslim feeling.
These hostilities are not initiated by the above-mentioned
people who are involved. They have nothing to benefit from fighting
among themselves at this point. Those who benefit most are the former
colonial masters who have now supplanted the hated colonialism and imperialism
with Zionism. The Zionists have outstripped all other interest groups
in the present struggle for our mother continent. They use such a benevolent,
philanthropic approach that it is quite difficult for their victims
to see through their schemes. Zionism is even more dangerous than communism
because it is made more acceptable and is thus more destructively effective.
Since the Arab image is almost inseparable from the
image of Islam, the Arab world has a multiple responsibility that it
must live up to. Since Islam is a religion of brotherhood and unity
those who take the lead in expounding this religion are duty-bound to
set the highest example of brotherhood and unity. It is imperative that
Cairo and Mecca (the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Muslim
World League) have a religious "summit" conference and show
a greater degree of concern and responsibility for the present plight
of the Muslim world, or other forces will rise up in this present generation
of young, forward-thinking Muslims and the "power centers"
will be taken from the hands of those that they are now in and placed
elsewhere. Allah can easily do this.