Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Martinsville Center of Al-Islam

On the way back from Floyd yesterday morning I passed through Martinsville, which is a medium-sized town in Southwestern Virginia not far from the North Carolina border.

About six miles west of Martinsville, on U.S. 58, I happened to notice a sign that said “Islamic Center” (along with some Arabic script) in gold letters on a green background. The sign was on the front of a nondescript brick building behind a parking lot on the south side of the highway.

I did a double-take and took careful note of where I was so that I could look the site up on the web when I got home. Last night I started googling, and the place was harder to find than I had expected — the only Islamic establishment in Martinsville I could discover on Islam4theworld and similar sites was “Masjid Muhammad”, but it was in downtown Martinsville, and not outside of town on the highway. However, by searching on the name of the masjid’s imam, James A. Shabazz, I found several news articles referring to “The Martinsville Center of Al-Islam” on A. L. Philpott Highway, which is the name of that western stretch of U.S. 58. Later on, when I saw the photo of Imam Shabazz standing in front of the center, it confirmed that the building was indeed the “Islamic Center” I had seen.

Based on his name, and also the photo, it would have been fairly safe to assume that Mr. Shabazz was a member of the Nation of Islam or one of its offshoots. There were only three significant articles about him or the Martinsville Center of Al-Islam, all of them from The Martinsville Bulletin. Two were from back in 2007, during the controversy over Rep. Virgil Goode, our congressman from the Fifth District. Long-time readers will recall that Rep. Goode caused an uproar by criticizing Rep. Keith Ellison, who was sworn into Congress in January 2007 with his hand on a Koran.

Virgil Goode was turned out of office in November 2008 after a massive effort by the Democrats, with major funding from CAIR and Soros entities. But the first two articles were from back at the beginning of all the fuss, before the bull’s-eye had yet been painted on Virgil’s forehead.

The earliest article was published on January 28, 2007:

Local imam talks about Al-Islam

The very word “Islam” is Arabic for “peace,” says James Shabazz

James Shabazz, the imam (leader) of The Martinsville Center of Al-Islam, says one of his favorite sayings is “the saying Christians have, ‘WWJD’ — ‘What Would Jesus Do.’” He likes to ask himself “What would Mohammed do?” when faced with a decision.

Shabazz is in his first year as imam of the Martinsville Center of Al-Islam at 17125 A.L. Philpott Highway. The center has about 15-20 active members “who are long-time members of this community,” he added.

The “long-time members of this community” are almost certainly local black people who converted to a version of Islam similar to the one practiced by the Nation of Islam. However, Mr. Shabazz adds this slightly ominous qualifier to his description:

Also, “many foreign-born Muslims are beginning to come. ... We find for the most part they are pleased” with the center’s worship and study, he said.

So, for the most part, they are pleased. But who isn’t pleased? And what do they object to? And what countries do they come from?

These tantalizing questions are not addressed by the article, which continues with the usual boilerplate we’ve all come to expect from Muslims in America — at least in those areas where they are not particularly numerous:
Shabazz commented that to Muslims, Al-Islam — which is commonly called Islam — is more than just a religion; it is a way of life.

It “emphasizes clean living, the duty that we owe to God and the importance of family,” he said. Al-Islam also stresses charity and the care of other people, including the less fortunate.

“This religion is not complicated. It’s very simple. It’s really a way of life,” Shabazz said.

Al-Islam recognizes about 25 prophets (including Abraham, Moses and Jesus), the Torah, Psalms (Zaboor) and the New Testament (Injil). Yet Al-Islam’s primary guidance comes from the teachings of the prophet Mohammed, who lived about 600 years after Jesus’ time and recorded his revelations in the Quran.

“We refer to the Quran as the final revelation. What God finds necessary is inclusive in the Quran because this Quran comes as a correction and a further revelation of what went before,” Shabazz said.

Al-Islam is not an inherently Arabic religion, he said. Rather, “the prophet was Muhammad who happened to be from Mecca in Arabia.”

The religion is based on five principles:

  • To witness that there is only one God (Allah);
  • To pray (five times a day);
  • To be charitable;
  • To fast, especially during the time of Ramadan (in September);
  • To make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The following description indicates that the original congregation was not formed by disciples of Elijah Muhammad, or perhaps split off at an early stage from the NoI:

“Al-Islam was introduced to Martinsville in the early 1950s and has steadily maintained itself with a group of families who have upheld the faith,” Shabazz said.

Shabazz said that the religion of Al-Islam is not structured on an international scale, but rather Muslims tend to follow particular leaders within their own countries or regions. The Martinsville Center of Al-Islam is associated with Universal Islam under the guidance of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the imam and international spokesman for the American Society of Muslims and the founder of The Mosque Cares in Chicago. Shabazz described him as a “leading teacher, scholar and proponent of universal peace — well recognized and respected throughout the world.”

A different branch of Islam practiced in Danville is Nation of Islam, which is under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan. Nation of Islam is not affiliated with Universal Islam, Shabazz said.

The article goes on to explain that Mr. Shabazz is not a Martinsville native, but came to the area after the previous imam died. More feel-good boilerplate is followed by this:

Shabazz said that it is a shame that terrorism has become associated with the Islamic religion. “Terrorism for us is an oxymoron ... as it is applied by the media to Al-Islam. Every aspect of Islam advocates peace, unity and fellowship. The very word itself means ‘peace.’”

He added that there are one billion Muslims.

“Individuals (associated with terrorist activities) are just a few bad examples. ... Most foreign-born Muslims I find are peaceful and law-abiding citizens seeking a better environment to practice their faith,” Shabazz said.

He said that much of society misunderstands Al-Islam by taking situations out of context and by failing to know and understand the Quran.

Without reading the Quran in its original Arabic, “you’re not getting the purity of the book,” Shabazz said. The Koran is an English-language translation of the Quran and “mistakes are found in translation,” he added.

A common misunderstanding involves the term jihad, which “for a Muslim means a struggle against personal weaknesses to bring ourselves into obedience with God, to live our life with prayer, charity and fasting” on holy days, he said. While jihad begins as personal struggle, the concept also can be extended to “a struggle against any body or force that comes to threaten your family, community or nation,” he added.

Because of the media’s misapplication of the term, “this word has come to the public eye as meaning holy war, and that’s a misnomer,” he said.

No matter what specific splinter of Ummah this imam belongs to, the above misdirections and falsehoods are straight out of the Muslim Brotherhood’s instruction manual.

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The second article is from March 4, 2007, and is not as interesting as the first one. I’ll just quote some brief excerpts:

Panel encourages religious tolerance

Americans are lucky to have a government that lets its citizens worship as they choose, and they should extend the same tolerance and understanding to their American neighbors with different faiths.

That was just one of the points made during “Religious Freedom in America,” a community discussion program Saturday at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Martinsville.

Holy Trinity’s Rev. Lynn Bechdolt, Martinsville Center of Al-Islam’s Imam James Shabazz and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy grassroots organizer Ryan Rinn spoke about various aspects of religious freedom in a discussion that focused on the need for dialogue and understanding between people of all faiths.

Shabazz said the Muslim holy book, the Quran, makes it clear that God has given man freedom to choose his own religion.

“Muslims who live by the Quran know that there is no compulsion in religion,” he said.

For that reason people should not fear that someone exercising a religion such as Islam will convert others, he said, because only God can convert someone.

Shabazz said the founding fathers of the nation recognized that God has given man a “precious intellect” that gives him the freedom to think independently. They put it first in the Bill of Rights, he said.

“All of this being said is respecting the dignity that God has given to every man and woman regardless of their race, their creed or color,” he said.

Shabazz said that God did not just mean for Americans to worship freely, but that everyone on Earth should have the same right.

Shabazz also talked about the similarities between Christianity and Judaism and Islam, which he portrayed as greater than the differences.

“We believe in the same God,” he said, and have “common concerns” to promote the best for life, family and community.

Most of the rest is self-flagellating Christian claptrap from the Lutheran minister, Rev. Lynn Bechdolt, whose apology for her country includes this:

However, she said, she personally knows a local Muslim man who said he does not feel safe as long as Americans are fighting a war in a Muslim country.

“If we are not going to be true to our principles now, when we are in conflict with Muslims on the other side of the world, we will never have any true convictions,” she said.

American Christians should be willing to reach out to those who are treated like “second class citizens” and live in fear, to not let them be afraid to outwardly practice their faiths.

The final piece, a letter to the editor from James Shabazz, was published on January 12, 2011. The occasion was the shooting spree in Tucson by Jared Loughner. There’s nothing particularly notable about it — the newspaper’s readers were simply enjoined to “[f]ight character assassination, prejudice, hatred and crime with enlightenment.”

Fine with me.

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That’s all I’ve been able to learn so far about Islam in Martinsville, Virginia. I’m sure there’s more than meets the eye for those who want to dig a little deeper. In particular, I can’t help but remember those “foreign-born Muslims”.

Later on during my trip home I passed not too far from the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compounds in Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties. That reminded me that JuF also reportedly split off from the Nation of Islam — in their case, because they wanted to practice a purer, more radical, more traditional form of Islam. A version that didn’t reject violent jihad.

None of this means that the same sorts of differences exist between the NoI and the Martinsville Center of Al-Islam.

But still, one wonders…



Correction: Islam literally means submission, not Peace.

Allah's Apostle said, "I have become victorious with terror."
Bukhari, Vol 4, Book 52, 220

"War is deceit"
Bukhari, Vol 4, Book 52, 269

"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve; therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every finger tip of them."
Qur'an 8:12

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Nilk said...

James Shabazz in action.

Interfaith truly is of the devil.

Lawrence said...

In the end, it all depends on what one means by "peace".

If subjugation of the gold under the Tyranny of Sharia Law is how you define peace, then yes, Islam definitely means peace.

allat said...

What would mo do?"

We all know what he'd do.

And "islam stands for peace"- yes, sure it does...after all the naysayers are slaughtered by the "purveyors of peace", then there IS peace!

allat said...

What would mo do?"

We all know what he'd do.

And "islam stands for peace"- yes, sure it does...after all the naysayers are slaughtered by the "purveyors of peace", then there IS peace!

Hesperado said...

The main problem mainstream Muslims have with NOI is not in their respective definitions of jihad (and I haven't seen any evidence they differ), but because the NOI does not follow the Sunnah properly, and because of the capital crime of the NOI declaring that a human being -- some influential guy named Wallace Fard Muhammad (an associate of Elijah Muhammad the founder of NOI) -- was Allah on Earth. A famous Muslim in the in the 10th century, al-Hallaj, was tortured and executed for saying approximately the same thing. It is the main problem Islam has with Christianity (that Jesus, a human, is God) and they regard that as Shirk, a crime worse than murder.

Also, I see that the leader of Shabazz's sect of Islam, Warith Deen Muhammad, apparently was himself the son of Elijah Muhammad, and became leader of the NOI but changed its name and nature, triggering the reaction of Farrakhan to splinter off and revive the name "Nation of Islam".

It would be interesting to ask this Shabazz imam if he himself believes that Wallace Fard Muhammad was Allah on Earth.

Incidentally, NOI black Muslim and mainstream black Muslims had a major "gang war" back in the 1970s in the DC area. Apparently, members of the NOI at one point in 1973 in the war invaded a home full of Hanafi Muslims (a mainstream Sunni branch) and butchered them all, including women and children. That home happened to be owned by basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar (!), himself a Hanafi Muslim.

The above-linked article also recounts how four years later, in 1977, the Hanafi Muslims took three buildings hostage in Washington, D.C. According to the report:

Because a film about Mohammed premiered in Washington, D.C., on March 9, 1977, a group of Muslims protesting its “blasphemous” portrayal of Mohammed attacked three buildings in downtown Washington D.C. and took 149 people hostage. Thirty-nine hours later, the siege was over — a reporter was dead and dozens of hostages had been stabbed, beaten or shot.

Hesperado said...

According to this (tendentious)essay, Warith Deen Muhammad (whom Shabazz follows) made the sect of his deceased father (Elijah Mohammed, founder of NOI) more in line with mainstream Islam. The question remains, did Warith Deen Muhammad agree with his father that Wallace Fard Muhammad was Allah on Earth?

If so, then Shabazz's version of Islam is according to mainstream Islam committing Shirk, and its members need to be destroyed for spreading Fitna in the land.

Hesperado said...

I see other major problems with the evolution of the NOI (which includes the leader of Shabazz's version of Islam) from the essay I linked above:

The genesis of the NOI, prior to Elijah Muhammad, began apparently with some black guy named "Noble Drew Ali" (late 19th century, and into the 1920s). As the Muslim writer of the essay writes (in the spirit of taqiyya presenting harmonious diversity amongst the various black American Muslim schools):

"Noble Drew Ali, who claimed to be a prophet..."

Wo there, Nelly! That claim is a capital crime in mainstream Islam.

In the same paragraph, the writer mentions (again in passing, as though it's just a quaintly interesting historical detail) "the anointing of Elijah Muhammad as the Messenger of of God" in 1932.

Wo there, Nelly again! In mainstream Islam, Mohammed was the LAST MESSENGER. There is no other. Effectively the same capital crime, according to mainstream Islam.

My question to Shabazz and to Warith Deen Muhammad (the latter died in 2008, but we can still find out what he believed to his dying day) may be amplified to include: whether they believe that Noble Drew Ali was a "prophet" of God, whether they believe Elijah Muhammad became a "Messenger" of God in 1932, and whether they believe that Wallace Fard Muhammad was Allah on Earth.

Hesperado said...

Sorry, I'm posting as I am reading this essay.

I see now that on page 27, Elijah Muhammad's son, Warith Deen (whom Shabazz follows), after his father's death in 1975, declared that "his father was not a prophet".

Incidentally, he goes on to write that Warith Deen Muhammad in 1992 "addressed the Pentagon on the fundamentals of the Islamic faith" and adds that on the "following day he became the first Muslim in the history of the United States to deliver the invocation in the Senate" and then on "January 20, 1993, he was invited by President Clinton to represent Muslims at the Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service."

Of course, the key is not what Warith and his followers think of themselves, but what mainstream Sunni Islamic Ulema around the world think of them and whether they consider them sufficiently orthodox (though even if they don't, I'm sure they're not above exploiting them temporarily for various forms of jihad; they can always butcher them later when they don't need their services anymore).

Lawrence said...

Hesperado said... "It would be interesting to ask this Shabazz imam if he himself believes that Wallace Fard Muhammad was Allah on Earth."

Need a score card to keep track of which Islamic cult is which, and which one is the worst of their cults.

cornholio said...

Hesperado, while I do see your points WRT the NOI being an apostate faith as far as mainstream Sunni or Shia Islam is concerned, I imagine the NOI is considered useful by the mainstream Islamofascists of the world now. As long as they continue to do so I doubt they'll have any problems.