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Cult following

Oct 26, 2012, 10:18 AM EDT
The leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States, Louis Farrakhan gives a press conference, on September 20, 2012 in Havana.
AFP/Getty Images
The Nation of Islam’s historic role as a bridge between American blacks and Islam ended in 1975 when W. Deen Mohammed followed his father, Elijah Muhammad as leader of the Nation and immediately disavowed his father’s folk religion, bringing his followers to normative Islam, the Islam of the Middle East. From then on, despite the theatrics of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation has been in a long downward trajectory. Now comes evidence, thanks to Eliza Gray writing about “Thetans and Bowties” inThe New Republic, of a jaw-dropping turn by Farrakhan, 79, to Scientology; as her subtitle puts it, “America’s two weirdest sects join forces.”
 
The connection goes back seven years:
 
[T]he story of how Farrakhan came to embrace it concerns a Nation minister in Los Angeles named Tony Muhammad. In 2005, Muhammad was beaten by the LAPD at a prayer vigil he’d helped organize for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting. The incident plunged him into an agitated, depressed state. A concerned friend introduced him to Scientology, which he credits with saving his life. When Farrakhan later met with Muhammad, he was amazed by the transformation and, as Muhammad tells it in an audio clip posted on YouTube, exclaimed: “Whatever you’re on—I want some of it.”
 
Five years later, things moved into high gear:
 
The first large-scale introduction of Scientology to Nation members took place in August 2010, when hundreds of believers from around the country traveled to Rosemont, Illinois, near the Nation’s headquarters, for a seminar in Dianetics, a foundational belief system of Scientology. There, they were guided through auditing sessions—a kind of hybrid between hypnosis and confession—in which a Scientologist purges painful experiences from his subconscious in the presence of an “auditor.” At the end of the seminar, Farrakhan told the group he wanted everyone in attendance to become a certified auditor.
 
“I’ve found something in the teaching of Dianetics, of Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, that I saw could bring up from the depth of our subconscious mind things that we would prefer to lie dormant,” Farrakhan announced in early summer 2012. “How could I see something that valuable and know the hurt and sickness of my people and not offer it to them?” Farrakhan plans to build a Scientology training center in Chicago and has even stated that “Nobody can lead in our Nation until and unless they become clear,” a reference to Scientology’s most enlightened state. He also voiced a hope that the two organizations maintain a “long and beautiful relationship.”
 
In turn, the head of Scientology, David Miscavige, finds bringing blacks into his organization super cool, praising “a most influential culture. ... I’m speaking of those who truly set cultural trends, and across every avenue: fashion, music, you name it. So talk about a pervasive culture, talk about a permeating and penetrating culture, or to put it another way: Most white folks wouldn’t have a clue of what it means to be cool if it weren’t for black America.” To smooth the way for NoI’s members to rise through the notoriously expensive Scientology ranks, Miscavige even cut them some financial breaks.
 
Comment: This fascination with Dianetics probably marks the terminal point for NoI. Normative Islam reigns supreme in America. 
 
Daniel Pipes is the president of the Middle East Forum.
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