Howard University Muslim Chaplain Johari Abdul-Malik praised the power and legacy of Malik El-Shabazz, more commonly known as alcolm X, Wednesday evening.

Abdul-Malik’s address emphasized the importance of drawing lessons from the unique strength of Malcolm X.

“To practice what you know, to live and to die by it – this is Malcolm’s legacy to us,” said Abdul-Malik. He noted the effects of Malcolm X’s difficult childhood on his later life, his personal development from his time in prison and his activism with and his break from the Nation of Islam and his international activism with the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

The event, which came on the 36th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, was sponsored by the Black Student Alliance and the Muslim Students Association. The presentation, “Remembering Brother Malcolm” drew a crowd of about 40 students.

“This is a person whose life was in a perpetual state of growth and development,” said Abdul-Malik. On this note, he also concentrated on the personal transformation undergone by alcolm X as a result of his pilgrimage to Mecca.

Malcolm X was introduced to Islam as a member of the Nation of Islam, a non-orthodox Muslim sect within the black community. According to Abdul-Malik, Malcolm X’s pilgrimage convinced him to pursue a more orthodox faith.

“He was a real Muslim,” Abdul-Malik said.

The pilgrimage also strengthened his involvement in the human rights movement.

“Malcolm brought militancy with him to America from the international freedom movement,” Abdul-Malik said.

“[Racism] is not an American problem, but a human problem, not a problem of civil rights, but a problem of human rights,” Malcolm X said in a video shown prior to Abdul-Malik’s presentation.

Historians implicate the Nation of Islam in his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, because of numerous previous death threats and attempts on his life. Abdul-Malik said that Malcolm X realized he was being targeted prior to his assassination and in the video at the presentation, he said, “I’m probably a dead man already.”

Abdul-Malik called Malcolm X an ambassador for the black community.

A lively discussion period followed Abdul-Malik’s presentation, addressing issues such as Malcolm’s realization of corruption in the Nation of Islam, the accuracy of Alex Haley’s biography, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the “leadership vacuum” left in the Organization of African American Unity after Malcolm’s death and the split of the civil rights movement between the North and the South.

Sophia Kizilbash (SFS ’03) said “the Muslim community is very diverse, but over half the Muslim population in America is African-American. We wanted to celebrate the life of one of the most influential African-American Muslims in history.” Although the BSA and the MSA co-sponsored this event, board members of the MSA agreed on the hope to reach beyond the two groups to the community at large.

Ismail Alsheik (COL ’01), who introduced Abdul-Malik and presided over the event, said he felt that the forum had been a success, as many seemed to have gained a new perspective on Malcolm X as a Muslim.

Asked why he agreed to speak, Abdul-Malik’s answer was simple: “I love Malcolm.”

Abdul-Malik said he welcomed the opportunity to “help people to get something out of looking at the life of a great person, although in his lifetime, people might have marginalized him. On many levels, as we look back on the legacy of Malik El-Shabazz, he was, in the truest sense, an American hero.” Abdul-Malik emphasized the lasting impact of Malcolm X’s revolutionary contribution.

“One bullet can kill a revolutionary, but it can’t kill a revolution,” he said.

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