By: Serach Nissim
New York’s City Council is set to rename a Harlem street after Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
As reported by the NY Post, the corner of West 127th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard would be named “The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad Way.” A self-proclaimed Messenger of Allah, who established and led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until his death in 1975 at age 77, Elijah Muhammad is a controversial choice. Many civil rights activists consider him a bigot who advocated black separatism. The renaming will be discussed on Tuesday in a public hearing. It would be part of a list of 128 street re-namings , which the City Council will vote on all together, as a list.
The honoring of Elijah Muhammad was proposed by Harlem democratic socialist Councilwoman Kristin Richardson Jordan. Councilwoman Richardson Jordan’s proposal lauds Muhammad, saying he “served as the inspiration and mentor to many, by preaching a new form of Islam tailored to the needs and problems of African Americans, such as economic self-reliance, clean living and the promise of a future in which African Americans would no longer be oppressed by racial discrimination.”
Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) was among those who said his name should be dropped from the list of streets for renaming. “I’m going to oppose Elijah Muhammad. He was a black supremacist. He was a bad guy,” Holden said. “It’s an insult to Malcolm X Boulevard.” Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) also said it would be “highly embarrassing for the Council to pass… [the Elijah Muhammad street renaming]. Streets renaming should be reserved for principled and respected individuals.”
The boulevard proposed for renaming intersects along a section of Malcolm X Street. Malcolm X had been a protege of Elijah Muhammad, but the two had later parted ways, in the 1960s when Malcolm X grew disillusioned with and subsequently split from the Nation of Islam. Later when Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the black religious and nationalist organization in Feb. 1965, some even speculated that Elijah Muhammad may allegedly have had a say in the hit. Muhammad had denied any involvement but days later had commented on the killing, saying that “Malcolm X got just what he preached.”
As per the Post, the proposed street for renaming houses the Mosque Temple No. 7 — the Eastern regional headquarters of the Nation of Islam. The Temple is also controversial because, Mosque No. 7’sprevious location on 116th street, was where NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo was killed by Nation of Islam radicals in 1972. The officer had come in response to a fake emergency call. No one was ever convicted in the slaying.
The Anti-Defamation League criticized the renaming proposal, saying the Nation of Islam has “maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and bigotry since its founding in the 1930s.” “The Nation of Islam opposes racial integration and advocates for the creation of a separate nation for Black people,” the ADL said, in a statement. “Anti-white doctrines are incorporated into NOI ideology. Unlike many civil rights activists who critique whiteness with regard to power structures and systemic racism, the NOI engages in the demonization of and conspiracy theories about the biological nature of all white people, portraying white people as satanic, sub-human, and inherently inferior to Black people.”