Bean Pies and Bow Ties
April C. Thornton
Are individual’s perception of other religions triggered by historical events, media outlets or actually observing people from different religious backgrounds? Take a look at African American male Muslims for example. People have their own ideas on what the everyday black male Muslim look like and represent. They see historical video footage of Malcolm X standing behind the podium with his militant persona advocating black independence, while staring out of his thick framed glasses with his tie nicely straightened. These audiovisuals of Malcolm X may give people the false impression that all Black Muslims have the same militant attitude. They know that As-Salamu Alaykum means ‘Peace be upon you’ in Arabic and Muslims pray to Allah. In addition, humorous jokes are made about Black Muslims selling bean pies on the nearest corner and refusing to eat pork. Aside from the comical jokes and narrow perceptions, what do people truly know about African American male Muslims?
Large populations of young African American males are converting to Islam. Either they are joining a popular trend across the nation that has been associated with imprisonment or they are looking for a positive change in their life. These so-called affiliates believe that wearing djellabahs, turbans or coofies makes them Muslims, while ignoring the spiritual and mental connection that comes along with converting to Islam. Despite the fact, that many young black male Muslims along with some non- Black Muslims misunderstands what the faith solely represents because not all Muslims look the same or have the same beliefs. It is time for inquisitive minds to grasp an understanding of how the Black Islamic faith was introduced to America’s society.
A glimpse into the early 1800s shows that many African Muslims were brought to America as slaves. Their slave-owners noticed something different about these particular slaves by their determination, intellectual and survival personality. Now, let’s fast-forward to the 1930s when Wallace Fard Muhammed wanted to improve the spiritual, mental, social and economic situations of African Americans of America. He found the first Temple of Islam also known as the Nation of Islam (NOI) or the Black Muslim. After his death, Elijah Muhammad became the leader of the NOI by spreading the same exact teachings of Wallace Fard Muhammed. The NOI taught mutual respect, discipline in appearance and behavior, stressed modesty and morality. Most importantly NOI believer’s was devoted to the Five Pillars, kept a healthy diet and physical fitness by excluding the consumption of alcohol, drugs and tobacco and pork.
Presently, the overall custom has drastically changed from the clean cut image and healthy lifestyle of the Black Muslim long-ago. The modern day picture of young African American male Muslims are jeans hanging below their buttocks, finding pleasure in smoking or drinking an alcoholic drink of their choice. To easily example this faulty description, modern day Black Muslims are finding comfort with disobeying the guidelines that Allah and his prophets advocated and created before them. How can individuals define and fully comprehend the African American Black Muslim? Do people study the original teachings or observe how young black male Muslims of today deteriorate the faith? Until society figures out what African American male Muslims look like and stand for, majority of people will keep associating them with bean pies and bow ties.