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Who is the real man behind the “X”?
The man behind the “X” journeyed from abject conditions
of racism and poverty, coupled with crime in his early life to the
attainment of the purpose of life. Enraged by racism and social
injustice, and propelled by a drive to get “his share,”
he pursued idols along his journey that he thought would bring dignity
and happiness— money, drugs, women, and expensive clothes.
The man behind the “X” hated what was passed off as
“religion.” So much so that he was nicknamed “Satan”
during his prison days. By denouncing falsehoods, distortions, and
hypocrisy of Christianity while in prison, the man was relieved
of the group pressure to follow the practices of a misguided ethnic
or religious majority and minority. Yet, his thirst for spiritual
direction did not die. He was invited and sought refuge in the Nation
of Islam—a large group of self-supporting African-Americans
who taught a combined doctrine of distorted teachings of Islam and
reverse racism to nullify their imposed inferiority complex. Malcolm
literally revered the organization and its leader Elijah Muhammad
until he realized Elijah’s ongoing hypocritical practices.
This was the biggest idol of them all, the toughest test for him
in his journey.
His trip to Mecca to observe the Hajj pilgrimage had a dramatic
effect on him. The following quote was taken from his autobiography
as told to Alex Haley (Ballantine Books, New York, 1973):
“My pilgrimage broadened my scope. It blessed me with a
new insight. In two weeks in the Holy
Land, I saw what I never had seen in
thirty-nine years here in America. I saw all races, all colors,—blue-eyed
blonds to black skinned Africans—in true brotherhood! In unity!
Living as one! Worshiping as one!”
He had promised himself never to follow any individual or teachings
that proved to be false. Early on, he committed himself to the truth
and sought it wherever he could find it. At any given time, the
man behind the “X” tried to adhere to the truth as he
understood it. But, when he realized that some practices are false,
Malcolm would readily give them up.
“In Mecca, too, I had played back for myself the twelve
years I had spent with Elijah Muhammad as if it were a motion picture.
I guess, it would be impossible for anyone ever to realize fully
how complete was my belief in Elijah Muhammad. I believed in him
not only as a leader in the ordinary human sense, but also I believed
in him as a divine leader. I believed he had no human weaknesses
or faults, and that, therefore, he could make no mistakes and he
could do no wrong. There on a Holy World hilltop, I realized how
very dangerous it is for people to hold any human being in such
One rule of human behavior is that the more a person commits himself
to another person, an organization or belief, the harder it is for
the person to separate from the other person, group, or belief.
The person who makes such a commitment often feels that he or she
has sacrificed so much in the name of the other person, group, or
organization. Most people simply deny any newfound negative information
about the organizations, individuals, and people they admire. Ignoring
“uncomfortable” information about individuals and groups
have been loyal to, such people strengthen
their attachment and commitment. In short, they are unwilling to
kill their egos. The ego does not like to feel that it has more
to learn, has made a mistake, or is on the wrong or twisted path.
A person cannot be a submitter to God alone (i.e., Muslim) and ‘feed’
their ego. Some people preserve their commitments to false allegiances
and teachings for a brief material gain. Some fear others instead
of God alone. By the grace of God, the man behind the “X”
passed this test.
“I only knew what I had left in America, how it contrasted
with what I had found in the Muslim world. About twenty of us Muslims
who had finished the Hajj were sitting in a huge tent on Mount Arafat.
As a Muslim from America, I was the center of attention. They asked
me what about the Hajj had impressed me the most. One of the several
who spoke English asked; they translated my answers for the others.
My answer to that question was not the one they expected, it drove
home my point.
“I said, “The brotherhood! The people of all races,
colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved
to me the power of the One God.”
“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one
religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout
my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even
eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white’—but
the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by
the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true
brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their
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