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The Counter Crusade: Arguments Against Christianity in a Racial Context
“Why would any black man in his right mind want to marry a lyncher, a murderer, a rapist, a dope peddler, a gambler, a hog eater… Why would any black man want to marry a devil… for that’s just what the white man is.” - Malcolm X
Interestingly enough, the white hate train hasn’t disappeared. In fact, it’s gaining rapid popularity among social justice causes. Malcolm X, later known as Malik el-Shabazz, was a prominent member of the Civil Rights movement. His activism for black nationalism and his urging for standing up to racist policies left him open to much criticism. One such controversial phrase was using the term “white devil” when referencing white people, specifically their racist and/or prejudiced actions. While he would admit in his later years that not all white people were evil, his argumentation strategy and vocabulary would influence untold amounts through the following decades. His technique of blaming whites for the poor status of blacks in America has made a comeback in recent years despite major civil rights advancements. We’ll focus on the similarities between Malcolm X’s arguments in race relations, compare them to that of today, and explain how they fall short.
Christianity was a large target for Malcolm X, mainly due to the fact that many proponents of racist ideologies of the time were self-identified Christians. He believed that Christianity, specifically the kind practiced in the United States, was hypocritical and evil. One argument that Malcolm X put forth was that Christianity has essentially done more negativity for the world than anything else, “In fact, in the white man’s hands, in the white man’s interpretation…where has Christianity brought this world? It has brought the non-white two-thirds of the human population to rebellion.” In addition, you have Elijah Muhammed - the former mentor of Malcolm X - stating to an all-black audience that “You are even foolish enough to believe that nothing is right but Christianity!” Similar to today, many are fighting what they believe to be akin to a Christian, religious elite. In response to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s decision on Roe v. Wade, a Catholic, protestors outside of his home were chanting “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”, in reference to his faith and the stance on abortion in the Catholic Church. To make another example of how Christianity is being attacked, just type in “Christianity HuffPost” on Google and compare it with “Islam HuffPost”. Compare the types of news for both - one talks about mainly negative information about far-right extremists, and the other search result exemplifies diversity. Very few, if any, have actually talked about the issues of Christianity itself, much like how Malcolm X rarely gave reasons as to why Christianity itself was bad. Many in today’s world argue against the influence of Christianity, even though Church attendance is at an all-time low. The number of people identifying as Christians has also steadily decreased in the past few decades, limiting their power. Overall, the attacks on Christianity seem to have made a comeback, even though the arguments themselves do not hold water.
On the contrary, Malcolm X believed that Islam was the superior religion, especially for the black man. Naturally, as a Muslim preacher, he believed that Islam was superior. In his view, Islam had no regard for anyone’s color. This is especially prevalent when he stated that attending Hajj changed his mind about the white man. There seems to be this notion in today’s society that racism can only exist in the west, specifically coming from white people. While Malcolm X was speaking to Dr. Abd al-Rahman Azzam, a man close with the Saudi royal family, he stated “[Dr. Azzam] pointed out how color, the complexities of color, and the problems of color which exist in the Muslim world, exist only where, and to the extent that that area of the Muslim world has been influenced by the west…if one encounters any differences based on attitude toward color, this directly reflected the degree of Western influence.” This is an extraordinary cop out of an argument. The suggestion that racism stems only from western-influenced areas is absurd. First and foremost, the Arab slave trade saw a horrific amount of Africans go all over North Africa and the Middle East, with some estimates putting between 10 million Africans being traded throughout sub-Saharan Africa alone. In fact, the country ‘Sudan’ is a rough translation of the Arabic word for ‘black’ because of the large amounts of slaves brought from there. The reason why there are hundreds of thousands of black Iraqis, for example, is because of the Arab slave trade. The same reasoning that saw western European powers get African slaves is the same reason why Muslim nations in the Middle East did. Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun said “Therefore, the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because (Negroes) have little that is (essentially) human and possess attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals.” And while it is argued that slaves were converted to Christianity en route to the New World, Islam allowed slaves to get out of slavery if they converted to Islam. This is never mentioned by Malcolm X. Another issue with Malcolm X’s argument is that slavery was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962, one year before Malcolm X traveled to Mecca. In his autobiography, he mentions servants who brought him and others food and drinks. I am wondering how well these servants were treated by those Saudi officials. It isn’t likely that Malcolm X ignored all of these issues on purpose, but rather out of ignorance. Clearly, there was more research to be done.
All in all, it is astounding to see the amount of anti-Christian propaganda that has engulfed the media today. While some Christian ministers, preachers, etc, have undoubtedly made idiotic statements or hold views of the same caliber, the religion itself hasn’t been treated fairly. Today, very few religions are under the microscope nearly as much as Christianity. The reasoning against Christianity has stayed essentially the same for the past 60-70 years. If we are to condemn Christianity for the false beliefs of certain individuals, then we must do the exact same for every other religion. To be fair, Malcolm X did imply that the Christianity preached by whites in America was not the same Christianity of Jesus. His attitude towards Christianity in general, however, does not necessarily support that implication. Overall, it does not seem that arguments today against Christianity are because people disagree with the tenets of it, but rather because they believe that its followers are politically conservative.