Christopher Hitchens Slate Magazine Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007
What the founder really thought about Islam.
It was quite witty of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to short-circuit the hostility of those who criticized him for taking his oath on the Quran and to ask the Library of Congress for the loan of Thomas Jefferson’s copy of that holy book. But the irony of this, which certainly made his stupid Christian fundamentalist critics look even stupider, ought to be partly at his own expense as well.
In the first place, concern over Ellison’s political and religious background has little to do with his formal adherence to Islam. In his student days and subsequently, he was a supporter of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, a racist and crackpot cult organization that is in schism with the Muslim faith and even with the Sunni orthodoxy now preached by the son of the NOI’s popularizer Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan’s sect explicitly describes a large part of the human species—the so-called white part—as an invention of the devil and has issued tirades against the Jews that exceed what even the most fanatical Islamists have said. Farrakhan himself has boasted of the “punishment” meted out to Malcolm X by armed gangsters of the NOI (see the brilliant documentary Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X, which catches him in the act of doing this). If Ellison now wants to use his faith to justify an appeal to pluralism and inclusiveness and diversity, he needs to repudiate the Nation of Islam, and in much more unambivalent terms than any I have yet heard from him.
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