Since its founding in 1930, the Nation of Islam (NOI) has grown into one of the wealthiest and best-known Black nationalist organizations in the United States, offering numerous programs and events designed to uplift Black Americans. However, these efforts to support and empower Black communities in the United States are overshadowed by the organization’s lengthy record of antisemitism, homophobia, and connections to prominent white supremacists. The NOI often reframes the serious issues facing the Black community, such as economic inequality and police brutality, to fit within their antisemitic ideology, blaming Jews rather than the systemic racism infecting American institutions.
The seeds of antisemitism are deeply rooted in the founding of NOI. Early on Elijah Muhammad preached about greedy Jews and advanced the longstanding antisemitic trope that Jews turned Jesus Christ in to the authorities. During the early 1980s, Louis Farrakhan called Hitler “a very great man” and Judaism a “dirty religion.” (Some say he called it a “gutter religion.”) He has frequently reiterated the “dirty religion” theme along with references to the “so-called Jew” (arguing that the “true” Jews were black North Africans) and constant accusations of secret Jewish control of financial and political institutions. Farrakhan has also blamed Israel and Jews for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
One of the most baseless attacks came in the form of three-volume publication titled The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. The first volume seeks to prove Jewish people initiated the transatlantic slave trade by highlighting isolated examples of Jewish merchants’ involvement. Subsequent volumes expand on this widely debunked claim, insisting Jews continue to exploit and control Black people and even ludicrously credit Jews with creating of the Second Ku Klux Klan.
The NOI also pushes conspiracy theories about Jews collaborating with the U.S. government to de-populate the Black community to justify their homophobic beliefs. Farrakhan has claimed homosexuality is the result of a chemical reaction and has convinced his followers that widespread homosexuality is part of a secret agenda being pushed by government scientists. Farrakhan’s belief is that by turning the black population gay, the government is trying to target and chemically castrate Black men. He has also asserted that homosexuality is “created by Satan and his manipulation of biology and chemistry.”
In addition to the organization’s notorious antisemitism and homophobia, the NOI preaches a theology of innate black superiority over whites. They believe whites are a biologically inferior, satanic race of “blue eyed devils” and oppose racial integration. Today the NOI continues to support a separate state for Black Americans.
The NOI’s beliefs and religious practices diverge significantly from traditional Islamic theology. Its belief in racial superiority clashes with the mainstream Islamic principle that all are equal under God and its teachings regarding God, Prophet Muhammad, and the afterlife are seen by some as heretical. As a result, mainstream Islamic groups reject the group and do not consider its members to be Muslims.
The deeply antisemitic, homophobic and bigoted rhetoric of its leaders, including top minister Louis Farrakhan, have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.
In Their Own Words
“Those of you that say that you are Jews, I will not even give you the honor of calling you a Jew. You’re not a Jew. You’re so-called. You’re Satan. And it’s my job now to pull the cover off of Satan.”
– Louis Farrakhan, The Criterion speech, July 4, 2020
“Pedophilia and sexual perversion institutionalized in Hollywood and the entertainment industries can be traced to Talmudic principles and Jewish influence. Now Jewish influence – satanic influence under the name of Jew...The wicked practices that govern their industries are largely justified and influenced by such Talmudic principles. The pervasive rape culture, Hollywood’s casting couch, sex trafficking and prostitution, the age-old buck breaking process that emasculates Black men and corrupts Black women.”
– Louis Farrakhan, Saviours’ Day speech, Feb. 17, 2019
“These same Jews that are attacking the Minister are the blood relatives of the slave ship owners.”
– Nuri Muhammad, “Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy the Black Family,” November 2018
“Also pushing the federal government are the wicked members of the Jewish community, who have opposed every good deed and all of the good works of a good man.”
– Richard B. Muhammad, “Straight Words,” Final Call, Volume 37 Number 35, Aug. 14, 2018
“These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength. … It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s the wicked Jews, false Jews, that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic!”
– Louis Farrakhan, Saviours’ Day speech, Feb. 26, 2006
“Who are the slumlords in the Black community? The so-called Jews. … Who is it sucking our blood in the Black community? A white imposter Arab and a white imposter Jew.”
– Speech by NOI national official Khalid Muhammad, Nov. 29, 1993
“Jews have been conclusively linked to the greatest criminal endeavor ever undertaken against an entire race of people … the black African Holocaust. … The effects of this unspeakable tragedy are still being felt among the peoples of the world at this very hour.”
– The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews (NOI book), 1991
“The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t a great man for me as a black person, but he was a great German. Now, I’m not proud of Hitler’s evils against Jewish people, but that’s a matter of record. He raised Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there’s a similarity in that we are raising our people up from nothing.”
– Louis Farrakhan, radio interview, March 11, 1984
“Integration is against the Desire and Will of God Who Wants and must Do that which is written He Will Come and Do: Restore the earth to its rightful owner (Black Man).”
– Elijah Muhammad, “Our Saviour Has Arrived,” 1974
The Nation of Islam (NOI) was founded in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan. Fard claimed that he was Allah (God), and his mission was to restore Black people to their original faith. Following Fard’s mysterious disappearance in 1934, Elijah Muhammad took over as the leader of the NOI.
In his new role, Elijah Muhammed helped cement the NOI’s ideology. He taught his followers that over 6,000 years ago, the black race lived in a paradise on earth that was destroyed by the evil wizard Yacub, who created the white “devil.” Elijah Muhammad also worked to expand the organization’s power and influence by creating a paramilitary wing, increasing recruitment efforts, purchasing farmland in Michigan, and founding businesses and educational ventures in several states.
The NOI’s influence and notoriety grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The advent of the civil rights movement and the violent reactions it provoked converged to make NOI’s message resonate with many in the Black community. The NOI preached that Black elevation could come only through a radical separation from the structures of white oppression and depicted white people as the “blue eyed devil.” In contrast with other civil rights leaders who advocated for nonviolent resistance, NOI leaders embraced militancy and advocated for self-defense.
New members, including Malcolm X and heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, added visibility to the group. Malcolm X became the national spokesman for the NOI and his popularity contributed directly to a meteoric membership increase. It was during this time that eventual leader Louis Farrakhan joined the NOI. Following Malcolm X’s split from the NOI in 1964 and assassination the next year, Farrakhan was eventually selected to replace him as national spokesman and minister of Harlem’s Temple No. 7 in New York City.
When Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Farrakhan initially remained faithful to his son, Wallace Deen , who succeeded him. But the younger Muhammad’s dismantling of the Nation’s material empire and his attempts to bring the NOI into the fold of mainstream Islam ultimately alienated Farrakhan. In 1977, a rebellious Farrakhan, backed by a powerful enough base to pull it off, rejected the younger Muhammad and declared the creation of a “resurrected” NOI based on the original ideology of Elijah Muhammad.
As the head of the new NOI, Farrakhan successfully rebuilt an empire. Aside from continuing NOI’s earlier educational and training programs, the reconstituted Nation embarked on economic self-sufficiency programs, creating bakeries, restaurants, fish markets and even a line of hair and skin care products.
Today the group owns farmland in Michigan and Georgia. Goods produced on the farm are sold online or in store at Your Supermarket, a grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia, that caters to NOI members. To date, the group claims to own thousands of acres of land and is linked to a number of restaurants. Farrakhan’s personal net worth, as of 2023, was approximately $5 million.
Ties to the Far-Right
Farrakhan’s calls for racial separation and his vitriol for Jewish people and the LGBTQ+ community helped make Farrakhan and the NOI attractive to certain white supremacist groups.
In one early instance, Elijah Muhammad invited American Nazi Party boss George Lincoln Rockwell to the NOI’s 1962 Saviours’ Day Convention. Rockwell spoke at the event, christening Elijah Muhammad “the Adolf Hitler of the black man.” Similarly, after denouncing NOI, Malcolm X revealed an Atlanta meeting (later corroborated by FBI records) between NOI and the Klan where leaders from both groups attempted to establish mutual working conditions. In 1985 American neo-Nazi and White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger attended a NOI rally in San Diego and has praised the NOI’s antisemitic rhetoric and even donated a symbolic amount of money.
In 1993 the Anti-Defamation League published an article detailing a wildly incendiary speech by top NOI official Khalid Muhammad at New Jersey’s Kean College in November of that year in which he violently bashed Jews, Catholics, LGBT people and whites.
During the 2008 presidential election, Farrakhan initially supported Barack Obama. Former President Obama responded by disavowing Farrakhan and the rhetoric of NOI against members of the Jewish community. Later, in a 2016 speech Farrakhan condemned Obama for not earning his legacy with black folks, saying: “We put you there. … You fought for the rights of gay people, you fought for the rights of this people and that people, you fight for Israel, your people are suffering and dying in the streets. That’s where your legacy is!”
In fall 2017, Farrakhan tweeted, “Black People: We should be more convinced that it is time for us to separate and build a nation of our own.” In a matter of days, the tweet managed to get nearly 2,900 retweets, with many expressing their support, including prominent white nationalists Michael “Enoch” Peinovich, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor. Richard Spencer even expressed his willingness to engage in conversation with Farrakhan and Jared Taylor encouraged him to speak on the issue in public. Just a few days later in his keynote address at the 22nd anniversary of the Million Man March, Farrakhan responded to all the support by praising the alt-right figures as “white people of intelligence” and added: “Somebody told me that the alt-right, Mr. Trump’s people, had a tweet or something – ‘we kinda like what Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam is saying, we with them to separate in a land of their own.’ I said: very good, alt-right, y’all want to talk about it? Talking has been done, nothing to talk about because now it’s either separation or death.”
Just as disturbing has been Farrakhan’s willingness to tie himself to authoritarian and, in many cases, violently repressive foreign leaders for the sake of furthering black and Islamic administrations worldwide. Some of these former leaders include former General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, Ugandan despot Idi Amin and former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.
NOI also had a deep relationship with Muammar Gaddafi that was built on their shared ideology and dislike of U.S. foreign policy. In the 1970s Gaddafi loaned the Nation of Islam approximately $3 million to help the group acquire an old church on Chicago’s South Side that would become the flagship mosque of NOI. In May 1985, Gaddafi then gave a second loan to the group, this time for $5 million, for the purposes of helping establish Farrakhan’s “economic plan,” which set up a “toiletry firm” in order to produce soaps, deodorants and toothpaste. In 1996, Gaddafi made headlines again when he tried to donate $1 billion to NOI and another $250,000 to Farrakhan as an honorarium. Officials from the Clinton Administration blocked the “gift,” citing regulations that barred negotiations with Libya due to strong evidence that pointed to Libya’s involvement with terrorist activity. Farrakhan tried to argue that the money was for “humanitarian purposes” and claimed the money would be used to improve the lives of black people. To Farrakhan’s dismay, the donation was never approved.
Farrakhan has also become a purveyor of conspiracy theories. He has claimed that homosexuality is the result of a chemical reaction and convinced his followers that widespread homosexuality is part of a secret agenda being pushed by government scientists. Farrakhan’s belief is that by turning the black population gay, the government is trying to target and chemically castrate African Americans. He has stated on numerous occasions that food and water in black communities have been tampered with.
NOI has linked up with the Church of Scientology to host joint events in multiple cities across the United States, including California, Florida and Illinois. A number of NOI members study Dianetics and take Scientology courses, and the Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad has appeared on videos promoting the church and received their Freedom Medal in 2017. The organization’s partnerships and self-promotion keep it going strong, and thus far they have been unwilling to denounce their hateful ideas – beliefs that have influenced not only the group’s membership, but also people outside it. On March 16, 2018, Washington, D.C., city council member from Ward 8, Trayon White Sr., an NOI supporter, posted on his Facebook page that the Rothschilds, who are a wealthy and prominent Jewish family, were controlling the climate for their own nefarious purposes.