The Nation of Islam (NOI) is finding a following in England and, to a lesser extent Canada and other European countries by appealing to aggrieved blacks who are attracted to the group’s vision of global black unity.
At the recent London conference of CESNUR, which focuses on new religious movements, Nuri Tinaz of the University of Warwick reported that the NOI may have as many as 10,000 members, supporters and sympathizers in the UK. He noted that the NOI has been growing in religious and political importance in the UK since the early 1990s. The fact that the NOI’s leader Louis Farrakhan has been banned since 1986 has generated awareness and sympathy for him and his message.
NOI’s traditional self-help and self-reliance economic teachings, starting such enterprises as restaurants, shops and groceries, only adds to its appeal, writes Tinaz. For youth, the NOI provids a sense of self-esteem and dignity, training them how to become productive, industrious and respectable people. From the early 1990s, the NOI’s officials in Britain have been working successfully to reach out to black professionals and politicians.
The role the NOI played in the Steven Lawrence Inquiry, where a black teenager was murdered by five white youths, providing support and solidarity by invitation from the family and supporters, gave the group broad acceptance among black civil rights organizations in the UK. The banning of Farrakhan in Britain, the pressure brought to bear on NOI schools by the Department of Education (threatening to close them) and criticism by the mainstream media, have served to give Farrakhan more support in the African-Carribean community.
Tinaz concludes that the British NOI chapter “functions as the springboard from which the movement’s officials and members plan to spread the NOI’s teachings, programs and agendas in Western Europe, where African and Caribbean diasporas are densely populated.[and also among] liberal whites and other disaffected immigrants.”
(To read Tinaz’s complete paper, visit the CESNUR web site: http://www.cesnur.org)