Malcolm X by Ed Ford. Courtesy: Creative Commons via Wikimedia
CAIRO - 31 August, 2017: As millions of Muslims flock to the yearly pilgrimage, it is time to remember how a single journey embarked by the Muslim activist Malcolm X over half a century ago had a historic impact.
Malcolm X (1925–1965) is considered to be one of the brightest African American figures in history. He was an outspoken, influential activist for the rights of black people.
But in order to trace the impact of the journey on him, we need to take a step back and see how his life used to be before it. He was born in an environment that gave him every reason to believe that all white people are devils. According to the New York Review of Books, his mother had a clash with white supremacists when she was pregnant with him. He was four when his family's home was burned down by a white fascist organization, and he was orphaned at the age of six as his father was killed in a racial accident. Despite being a bright student, his white teacher at school told him to consider being a carpenter instead of a lawyer only because of his skin color.
So when Malcolm was imprisoned between 1946 and 1952, during this period he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI); an African American movement that weaved both of Islam with Black Nationalism. This movement led him to convert to Islam, and after his release from the prison he gradually became one of the movement's figures.
According to Malcolm X website, in March 1964, amid the American Civil Rights era, the black activist left the NOI and decided to found his own religious organization. But only the following month, in April 1964, Malcolm X went on pilgrimage that shattered his racism and altered his views on politics and civil rights.
In a historic letter from Meccah, he started by saying, "Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient holy land, the home of Abraham, Mohamed and all the other prophets of the Holy Scriptures."
He then explained, "There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that would erase racism from its society. 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. You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary for the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth."
And ever since, he rejected the separatist beliefs, he joined the right side of history.