Ebrahim Moosa

For many in the United States and abroad, the name Malcolm X evokes passionate emotions about the struggle for equality, the assertion of Black Pride and the fight against institutionalised racism. For entire generations, Malcolm’s story has been embodied by a familiar narrative: his early years living the pleasure-driven dream, his metamorphosis in prison and subsequent rise to fame as a Minister of the Nation of Islam, his embracing of mainstream Islam and split with the sect, and ultimately his tragic assassination.

But yet, as a new meticulously researched biography reveals, this narrative captures only a snapshot – a fraction of the man in full. Billed as the definitive work on one of the most important figures in 20th century US history, Manning Marable’s ‘Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’ draws on years of investigation to capture the full essence of Malcolm’s pursuits and political ideals.

According to Marable, a closer reading of existing published works on the icon reveal numerous inconsistencies and notable ommisions. One significant exclusion is the failure to adequately acknowledge the organisation that Malcolm founded to pursue his political ideals: The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The OAAU was a Pan-Africanist organization founded by Malcolm X in 1964. Modelled on the Organisation of African Unity(OAU), which had impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa, the purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African Americans and promote cooperation among Africans and people of African descent in the Americas.

The founding of this organisation was reflective of an overall shift in Malcolm’s outlook. After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X announced his willingness to work with leaders of the civil rights movement, but he strongly felt that it should change its focus to human rights. So long as the movement remained a fight for civil rights, its struggle would remain a domestic issue, but by framing the struggle as a fight for human rights, it would become an international issue, and the movement could bring its complaint before the United Nations. Malcolm X said the emerging nations of the world would add their support to the cause of African Americans.

To this end, he travelled widely to Third World Nations. Malcolm X visited Africa on three separate occasions, once in 1959 and twice in 1964. During his visits, he met officials, gave interviews to newspapers, and spoke on television and radio in Egypt, Ethiopia, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Senegal, Liberia, Algeria, and Morocco. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria even invited Malcolm X to serve in their governments.

Impressively, by the time he returned to the United States from his last African trip in 1964, Malcolm had met with every prominent African leader and established an international connection between Africans on the continent and those in the diaspora.

More amazing still, was my discovery that in September of the same year, Malcolm paid a special visit to the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

According to the book, the two-day visit to the coastal refion included meetings with local government officials and stopovers at Palestinian refugee camps near the Israeli border. Malcolm, who was now also widely known as Malik al Shabazz, also prayed at a local mosque before holding a press conference at Gaza’s parliament building.

The visit also afforded him the opportunity to meet with Ahmed al-Shukairy, the first president of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The deliberations provided the stimulus for an article called “Zionist Logic” which Malcolm published in the Egyptian Gazette on September 17, 1964. It denounced Israeli Zionism as a “new form of colonialism” designed to “deceive the African masses into submitting willingly into their ‘divine’ authority and guidance.”

Referring to the then Israeli government’s overtures of aid to newly independent African States, he argued that it served as an extention of European colonialism, differing “only in form and method, but never in motive or objective.” For him, this combination of US and Israeli interference in African affairs constituted “Zionist Dollarism” which had led to the military occupation of Palestine.

Coming in 1964, just before Israel illegally occupied Gaza and decades prior to the formation of the global solidarity movement, Malcolm’s foresight was truly revolutionary. From those fledgling days, he recognised the merits of internationalising the struggle for human rights and affording the power that resides with the ‘silent majority’ its due importance.

He emphasized the “direct connection” between the domestic struggle of African Americans for equal rights with the liberation struggles of Third World nations. He insisted that African Americans were wrong to think of themselves as a minority. In a global context, he reasoned, ‘black’ people were certainly a majority.

The principles of his Organization of Afro-American Unity were equally universal. Oppressed peoples, it advocated, were within their rights to defend themselves from aggressors, and to secure freedom, justice and equality “by whatever means necessary.”

Decades after his assasination, in a year that has been dubbed “The Year of the Protestor,” these ideals of Malcolm X resonate more clearly then ever in the court of those seeking social justice.

It would augur well for African countries to take a leaf out of his book too: 2011 has seen a unprecedented rise of what one writer called the “Little Israels mushrooming across Africa.” The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu promised to help build “a coalition against fundamentalism” that brings together like minded African states. He also paid an historic visit to South Sudan recently engaging with the leadership of the SPLA, military and security leaders. And Ugandan President Yoweri Museweni paid a secret visit to Israel in November apparently to discuss “security matters and buying arms.”

To quote Zionist Logic again: “The number one weapon of 20th century imperialism is zionist dollarism, and one of the main bases for this weapon is Zionist Israel. The ever-scheming European imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and sow the seed of dissension among African leaders and also divide the Africans against the Asians.”

Malcolm was equally unequivocal on the justification given for the establishment of the State of Israel:

“Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the “religious” claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago? Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation where Spain used to be, as the European zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?”

In short the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history  not even in their own religion. Where is their Messiah?”

Talking about Messiahs, it reminds one of a declassified FBI memorandum which eluded to how much U.S. Intelligence considered Malcolm X the top threat to the global neo-colonialist hegemony. Discussing its long range goals, it revealed the desire to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.”

Malcolm X was precisely that Messiah, who had the potential to mobilise the disenchanted of the world. In the words of Haroon Al-Qahtani’s ‘America and Malcolm’:

“Malcolm X as a divider was nothing for white America to fear. What the white establishment feared, and even fears today, is Malcolm X the unifier; the Malcolm X who said,”The worst form of human being, I believe, is one who judges another human being by the color of his skin,” and knew that there was a conspiracy to kill him, not because he proposed self-defense, but because he believed, “the only way to help the black man in this country is unity among black people and white people.”

Article originally published by Cii Broadcasting in 2011