Thursday, August 22, 2013

Opening paragraphs..................

On April 27, 1962, Muslims gathered for the Friday evening prayer service at Muhammad's Temple No. 27 in South-Central Los Angeles, east of Culver City and west of Watts.  Some two hundred followers of Elijah Muhammad sat in folding metal chairs, separated by sex - the women wearing head coverings and floor-length dresses, generally white, and the men in distinctive dark suits with suspenders and bow ties, their heads closely shaved.  Facing them from the podium, a blackboard posed in large letters the thematic question of the Nation of Islam:  "WHICH ONE WILL SURVIVE THE WAR OF ARMAGEDDON?"  To the left, framed by a cross, and American flag, and a silhouette of a hanging lynch victim, the blackboard offered a grim choice labeled "Christianity, Slavery, Suffering, Death," in pointed contrast to the alternative proclaimed on the right:  "Islam, Freedom, Justice, Equality."  Thus, explained the quick-witted Minister John X Morris, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad answered one of the central puzzles of all religion - how to reconcile unmerited suffering with the presence of a benevolent God.  Allah had permitted the Christian nations to bring Africans into slavery - "chewing on men's bones for three hundred years," as Muhammad put it - to test the will of the victims to reestablish their religious dignity.
-Taylor Branch,  Pillar of Fire:  America in the King Years  1963-1965

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